As an American and former congressional aide, I, like the rest of the country, am sincerely disgusted and saddened by the shootings that took place in Tucson this past weekend. Many have expressed shock over these events, and while I am shocked as well, it terrifies me that these types of sick actions seem to be occurring with increasing frequency, whether at universities, workplaces or events where our public officials are doing what they were elected to do – connect with those who elected them.
Though I was outraged from the moment I heard the initial news reports, the story truly hit home for me when CNN reported that one of those killed was 30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, a congressional staff member who was engaged to be married. Gabe was no doubt a hardworking and dedicated professional, just like I was, serving his country and making a difference in a way that was surely meaningful to him and to others. That he worked in his boss' district while I worked up on Capitol Hill makes no difference. He was a citizen doing his duty, just like me, and he and all the innocent others who were killed in such a tragic way certainly did not deserve to die like this.
Before I left Capitol Hill, I witnessed that political tensions and anti-government rhetoric in this country are as high as many have ever seen, and primarily over issues that, in my opinion, are far less outrageous than many of those we’ve faced throughout the past decade. However, the purpose of this post is not to tout my own political views, but rather to express solidarity and love in the face of violence. The truth is, no matter how much someone’s views might anger or even outrage me, I respect their right to disagree, and certainly still value them as human beings. What has happened in our nation and society to make individuals feel that senseless violence is the only way to make their voices heard? I'm not sure, but it truly leaves me sick at heart.
So, moving forward in light of these tragedies, I’m asking everyone – readers, friends, family members, strangers and myself – to think before we speak, and to consider how our own actions might unwittingly foster a culture of hatred and intolerance, from saying we hate someone to calling someone an ugly name. Certainly, sick individuals will still continue to carry out violent acts, but I truly believe that we all need to make it our personal mission to stand for compassion instead of anger.
I once interviewed a professor who shared that his favorite quote comes from St. Augustine, who said, “Love, and do what you will.” “Because if you love, you will know what to do,” the professor told me. I believe this and try to live by it. I wish everyone else would, too.
(Photo Credit: Roll Call)