In a revealing account during the President’s Tucson speech Wednesday night, the nation learned that Gabrielle “Gabbi” Giffords was healing more rapidly than doctors had hoped for and for the first time she had opened her eyes, albeit briefly. As President Obama conveyed the information about this recent improvement following his visit to the hospital, the stadium he was speaking in erupted and the TV audience watched Mark Kelly, her husband, well up with gratitude and joy as the world shared in this hopeful sign with him that the spunky 3 term congresswoman was back with us.
On both sides of Ms. Giffords’ husband were First Lady Michelle Obama and former governor of Arizona and now Sec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. They clutched each of his hands as the elation of the news overcame them, with Ms. Obama tearing up slightly as she beamed at Mr. Kelly
Earlier at the hospital at the beside of Ms. Gifford, along with her husband Mark, three of Gabbi’s close female friends in the Congress, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, were in the room when she struggled to open her eyes. Ms. Gillibrand informed NBC news that “we had been telling her that she was inspiring the country with her courage and that we couldn’t wait to take her out to pizza and a weekend away. Then after she heard our voices and the encouragement of Mark and her parents, she struggled briefly and opened her eyes for the very first time. It was a miracle to witness.”
A miracle indeed, either through the excellent medical care she had received since day one of the tragedy, the good fortune that the bullet’s trajectory had only affected one side of her brain, or as some would tell you, an answer to their prayers. Perhaps it was a combination of all three. Her recovery sheds some relief on a concerned public who have been horrified once again that a senseless killing has taken place in the safety of our neighborhoods.
The loss of 6 others will be grieved over for many months and perhaps even years by family and close personal friends, especially the untimely death of Christine Taylor Green, the nine year old who attended Gabbi Giffords’ “Congress at your Corner” event to learn more about public service. But with Gabbi’s hopeful rebound, a life that was once full of promise will perhaps once again be active and allow us to share in her renewal, emotionally and hopefully as a people.
As Gabbi struggles to open her eyes more, maybe we as a nation can also begin to open ours and start viewing others with more dignity and grace than we have for nearly two decades. The political divide in this country has eaten away at the spirit and the soul of our national character and left us mistrusting of our government that was once the pride of the entire world. A government that Lincoln declared was for, by and of the people as he assuaged the hearts and minds of another public assembly following a civil tragedy between Americans on the fields of Gettysburg some 150 years ago.
The national discourse between extremes in this country has reached pitched levels that many of us haven’t seen since the civil rights days of the late 1950’s and most of the 1960’s. The expressed forms of hate and the anger revealed on the faces of those at political rallies and organized events has reached a new high. In the last two years the government that Ms. Giffords has devoted her life to and that is supposed to represent the people of this nation, has devolved into a partisan divide creating a gridlock that resembles more a battlefield than the halls of a democracy that once defied the rule of a monarchy and began the greatest experiment in human freedom the world had ever seen.
Too many have allowed their personal feelings to block the general consensus of those who expect a representative government to make necessary compromises in order to move us forward. Too many are unwilling to make personal sacrifices to help the powerless in this country at a time when a handful of people have profited from the labor of people who now fill the unemployment rolls across this nation. As the efforts of some attempt to correct this disparity, fear mongering is generated by powerful and wealthy forces that undermine our unity and keep us divided while only they benefit from its rancor.
We have always been a diverse culture, more now than ever before but we have always enveloped ourselves in a national persona that fits our national motto, e pluribus unum – out of many, one. This oneness has not come without some sacrifices and scars from an evolutionary process that included a Revolutionary War, a Civil War, two world wars, battles between labor and corporate management and civil liberty confrontations during the mid-twentieth century. This struggle we are confronted with now is a mix of economic challenges and social values differences and has strained the fabric of our culture to the point of ripping apart.
The tragedy that has happened to 6 dead and 13 injured in Tucson is a wake up call to this component amongst us that threatens our oneness. As the target of this heinous crime struggles to recover and open her eyes, it will be a test for us all to see if we too can recover as a nation. There will be that minority that will never bend or allow a degree of tolerance and conciliation amongst us; there always has been. We must find out if we have the will to overcome this societal obstruction as Gabrielle Giffords overcomes her injuries. It will be through the efforts of sheer personal will more than anything else that will allow both to become whole again.
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