Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wake Up Call

When I was fourteen, my mother fell down the basement steps and landed in a coma. I found her. This began a three-month nightmare that included hours of surgery, days of unconsciousness, and months of recovery. Not knowing what she’d be able to do or who she’d be.

I’ve been reliving that time since Saturday when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was attacked.

To me, it’s personal.

Politics, too, is personal.

When I was twenty-two, I interned for a U.S. Congressman in New York. The calls that came in were ugly whenever there was controversial legislation up for vote. In those few months, I knew I could never be a politician or work for a politician.

I took it too personally.

Two times in our history, our country almost broke in two.

Slavery was ugly. It made for ugly politics. We fought a war to decide whether to preserve or divide our Union.

Segregation was the unfortunate outcome of slavery. That again threatened to divide our nation. The 1960s were an ugly time. There were protests and excessive force used against the protestors.

But what stays with me, are the assassinations.

The murderers often think by killing the messenger, you kill the message.

History has shown that is not the case.

Today, we don’t have slavery. We don’t have segregation. The divisive issues are the same ones that have been mulled over my entire lifetime. Don’t believe me? Watch a few old episodes of “Family Ties”.

So why have things become so ugly?

So divisive?

I am not standing on my soapbox, spouting my point of view about a myriad of issues.

This post is larger than an issue or a political ideology.

I fear we’ve lost our humanity.

Our center. Not only of the political spectrum, but ourselves.

We don’t talk about political parties or people in those parties the same way we used to.

They’re demonized.


Violence is advocated more and more.

I’m not saying the alleged shooter was sane. I’m not saying he did it because too many protestors and even leaders are hinting at or openly advocating violence. But when there’s so much hate coming out of people’s mouths, being played on 24-hour news stations…

We can’t ignore that this is negatively impacting our country.


Most of my followers are writers and/or teachers. It’s our job to expose the truth.

And we now live in a time when the truth is distorted for political gain.

We’re letting it happen.

Think I’m exaggerating?

Healthy debate is discouraged.

But aren’t books and classroom about engaging in healthy debate? In the real world that’s happening less and less.

My fear is this is all a distraction from what really matters. In a fast-changing world, we need to decide who we are. How to prepare for the changes. But instead we’re finger pointing, shouting, tossing blame at the other.

Dehumanizing the other.

Books have been reflecting this shift. I think it’s no coincidence that more and more dystopia, with governments oppressively controlling the people are becoming popular. Read Harry Potter 5/6/7. Read The Hunger Games series. Read Matched.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum. No matter what your religion. What’s happening is the antithesis of democracy.

A nine-year-old girl died in Arizona. I have an eight-year-old daughter.

A citizen wrote this on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page:

"It's ok. Christina Taylor Green was probably going to end up a left wing bleeding heart liberal anyway. Hey, as 'they' say, what would you do if you had the chance to kill Hitler as a kid? Exactly."

It may be now, but for quite a time it wasn’t removed. Other negative comments against Palin were, but this one stayed up.

While the person who wrote this post about Palin’s page may have an obvious political side, those words are Revolting. Shameful.

Imagine if Gabrielle Giffords were your mother and there was a map with a target on it…

Imagine if Christina Taylor Green were your daughter…

Who are we?

In which direction are we going?

I, for one, will call out representatives, political groups, and media outlets when there are calls for violence instead of common sense.

I will not stand idly by when people are dehumanized.

As citizens, we have the right for the truth. Our democracy demands it. If we let others finger-point and distort the truth, we lose it all.

I want what happened in Arizona to be a wake up call.

Are you with me?


  1. I was just talking to my husband about the lack of "civility" in politics. In years past rivals would argue on the senate floor, then go out to dinner together. I will do my best as a writer to promote civility in disagreement.

  2. I'm with you. I also think it's important to recognize that assasination attempts are not new. They are, unfortunately, part of fame and the fact that there are always crazy people out there making threats on people in high profile positions.

    I don't think violence is nearly as prevalent in everyday life as it appears in the media. And, of course, people are going to write cruel stupid things. That says more about them than society as a whole.

    I firmly believe most people are good. Just look at four-way traffic stops. Most people wait their turn.

    Have you read The Gift of Fear? It's an awesome read and there's an entire section on the price of fame.

  3. My husband (who usually wont talk politics with me) was just talking about this lastnight. Great way to word it! Great post!

  4. It's very sad and the heated arguements on boths sides need to cool down and discuss the problems, not point fingers.

    When my boys were younger, they would get in arguments and be like, "But Tim said ____" and the other one would be, "But I only said that because Brian said, ______".

    I'd have to tell them I don't CARE who said what. This is what is going to happen now. They needed to fix it without fighting. Forget the arguement, just fix the problem they were arguing about.

  5. It's so sad when situations come to this violence. My heart goes out to this tragedy's victims and their families.

  6. Such a powerful post, Theresa. The story made it here too, heartbreaking for little Christina and her family.
    I thought it was ominous and symbolic that she was actually born on 9/11, born and died in violence.

    Distorted truth is the real reason behind all the worlds troubles, well written and I think you should try and get it published.

  7. Wow, Theresa. I love this post. I love every word of it and the passion you put behind them. I love its message. And yes, I am SO with you!

  8. WOW, (Standing and clapping) what a moving post. I am with you and truly believe violence begets violence. Wouldn't this make a great blog fest? Imagine every blog demanding people to be, well... HUMAN :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  9. Definitely with you! Polarization is scary no matter where it happens, and when you throw violence into the mix, it's a recipe for disaster. I was horrified by what happenned in Tucson.

  10. @ Sheila, you're right. Our country hasn't always been great with political civility, but had seemed we'd evolved from a century or so ago. Now I fear we're not learning from past mistakes.

    @ Angela, assassinations seem to come in spurts. I really don't want to live in that climate. If we lose access to our leaders, will we actually be able to maintain a democracy?

    I think most people are good. But it doesn't take that many to hold us all hostage with fear. That's what terrorists have done.

    Thanks for the book recommendation.

    @ Magan, thank you.

    @ Mary, I completely agree with your last paragraph. That's what politicians sound like sometimes, screaming siblings.

  11. @ Joanne, me too. Those poor families.

    @ Brigid, I wish more people would go to to really know if what they're hearing is true. I've used it. It's our responsibility as citizens of a democracy to know what we're being fed is true or not.

    @ Shannon, thank you.

    @ Jules, that's an interesting idea. Taking our humanity back blogfest.

    @ Talli, I agree. I hope such senseless violence doesn't continue.

  12. I agree. It's really shameful to have a tragedy like this happen and instead of having us unite together like we did on 9-11, it has polarized people and has totally gotten ugly. Makes me sad.

  13. Such a beautiful, moving and passionate post. Your last line, Are you with me? All can say to that is, Yes, I am!

  14. I'm with you, too. How do people live with themselves when they treat others so badly? There are some absolutes in this world, and one of them is to show respect and kindness to the next person. Thanks for this insightful post.

  15. It's scary and I'm with you. This is a post that will resonate with a lot of people.

    I agree there are a lot of books on dystopia lately. I've recently read Witch and Wizard, it's now a series by James Patterson.

  16. Powerful post - we cant trust the media to give us the truth - I doubt we ever could - but the extent to which we have been fed lies is really coming to the fore recently, in both our countries...I'm with you.

  17. @ Jennifer, maybe that was the event. We came together at first, but it's been getting uglier and uglier since the war began. Not that there wasn't ugly politics in the 90s.

    @ Choices, thanks for being with me. I wish we could spread this.

    @ Roxy, I wonder the same thing. Do those who hurt have any awareness of it or do they justify it?

    @ Len, I believe books reflect the climate of our world. How can we not sprinkle the concerns of the present in our manuscripts?

    I'll check out the book.

    @ Words A Day, in the old days, news was obviously partisan. Then there was a movement to be more objective, Now many are under the cloak of objectivity but are any but objective. At least way back when, nobody hid it.

  18. I'm with you. I can't stand the vitriol spewing forth today, particularly in the media. People get so worked up about "they" who have different views that they stop seeing them as people.

  19. I'm with you!! I'm heartened a little by the special report here from the BBC news team who went about interviewing people in Tucson to gauge their reaction to this tragedy. The overwhelming consensus apart from deep sorrow and shock was to pull together and take stock of the volatile political atmosphere made poisonous by certain politicians - who really should know better and who should be ashamed. If certain politicians (you know who you are) think urging a crowd to chant "kill Obama" is ok, then I'm hoping this tragedy will show just how words can be so effective in the wrong hands.

    Take care

  20. Thank you so much for this post. I'm definitely with you. Violence is never the answer, especially not when it dehumanizes people.

  21. Very well written and nuetral post. I agree we should never resort to violence and cruelty.

  22. Wonderful post. When people pass on those emails asking you to pass them on to your friends, I don't. When someone tries to engage me in political rhetoric, I don't. But I think it's time I did more than that. It's time I answered them back and told them to stop sending me the trash talk emails.

  23. @ JEFritz, you are so right. That's what's nice about blogging. We rarely know one another for our political ideologies. We see each other as human beings. How important that is to do with everyone all the time.

    @ Old Kitty, I was going to mention the "Kill Obama" thing, but I didn't want to harp on one person. That was disturbing. I don't know how someone in power could even think of saying something like that, and then say leaders' words have no effect to incite violence.

    I hope Arizona and the rest of the US pulls together. Unfortunately, we have short memories sometimes.

    @ Emy, we're supposed to be better than this. I remember when we used to be considered the moral authority in the world. Can we say that anymore?

    @ Hannah, thank you. I put off writing a post because I didn't want to come off as being political. It's not easy.

    @ Helen, thanks. I think that's a great idea.

  24. Thanks for having the bravery to write this post. I'm with you all the way. That post about the little girl was nauseating.

  25. This is a powerful post Theresa, and very well put. I was heartbroken and sick to my stomach watching and reading about this. It was so sad, and you're right, it should be a wake up call.

  26. Very nice. I love the way that you wrote this because you are so right. I feel like we are wandering, emotionless sometimes. And I feel like a lot of people don't know where we as a nation, as a people, as a world are headed. It's very scary. Things like this shooting are becoming more and more rampant, and I find that terrifying. But what's more terrifying is that no one is teaching the most impressionable people that it isn't something to be continued.

    I try to teach my students at school about humanity and compassion. But violence seems to reign sometimes. I used to get so sick of hearing, "You are the future", but you know it's true. They are my future. And I want not just my students, but kids everywhere to grow up with love in their hearts not pain, despair, and rejection. Those things only continue to hurt others.

    Hopefully, somewhere along the way we can teach people to have compassion and love. Just keep praying and writing things like this! We'll break through!

  27. Excellent post, Theresa. Thanks for putting this out there.

    I agree - it's time (has been time) for a wake up call.

  28. @ Lydia K, I was worried about writing this post, thinking I'd offend people or get nasty comments. But the comments have been supportive. I'm glad so many people feel the same way.

    @ Writing Nut, I was also heartbroken and sick to my stomach. Last night, Obama said something similar about needing to stop the violence and the inciting rhetoric. I hope people are listening.

    @ Katie, I feel just like you. I don't think students quite get the world we're handing to them, and what responsibility they will have. They've heard the same worn cliches - those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it. But it's true!

    I've said over and over that when we see people as the "other" we can do whatever we want to them. It's important to see what's similar instead of harping on the differences. I hope they're listening.

    @ Shannon, thank you. I hope we see a change in attitudes. We'll see.

  29. Hello! I just wanted to let you know I have something for you over at my blog.

  30. Very well said Theresa. The rhetoric has been out of hand for way to long. People need to step up and say enough. My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones in Arizona.

  31. @ Kelly, I'm on my way.

    @ Ann, I agree with all that you said. We'll see what happens...

  32. Wonderful post. We have dehumanised much of our society. We forget real people are behind political decisions. We forget the impact of our actions.

  33. Thank you for writing this. Congresswoman Gifford went to my Alma Mater, and, although I do not know her, I feel especially shocked and disturbed by this whole situation that. I believe in free speech, but I also believe in people taking responsibility for what they do and say. That's what being a citizen is.

  34. What that person wrote about Christina was completely shameful and heartless. I do read comments on blogs, but I don't like reading certain message boards and forums in other places, especially when politics is involved; the comments can be so nasty, like the one you described. I don't understand why people write that stuff, and when I do happen to read those mean comments, I am shocked more often than not at people's cruelty. It's one thing to vent, but what did Christina ever do to anyone? No one deserves that.

  35. @ Lynda, well-said. Nothing is worse than making it seem like a person's life doesn't matter. That it's only worth his/her political ideology according to the other side.

    @ Margaret, you are absolutely right. Part of being a citizen is taking responsibility for our actions and making sure our political leaders do the same.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, I normally don't go on message boards or read political blogs either. This particular one was linked by a friend on Facebook along with the quote about Christina on top. It's probably what ultimately made me write this post.

  36. Thanks for the post. I'm so upset about the whole thing. I seriously could not believe what that person wrote about that little girl. How disgusting.

    It really makes me sick and very, very sad.

    I'm just praying that people watch what they say in the future. Even if the shooter wasn't influenced by the media, can it really hurt if we all just behave a little nicer to each other?

  37. @ Lisa, it's very upsetting. It really shouldn't be hard to be nicer. Instead of trying to make people villains, let's solve problems.

  38. Absolutely yes! Say it loud! I'm constantly making comparisons to tragedies like this. I remember thinking - why would you shoot an 9yr old child for crying out loud? I don't condone any of the deaths but it disturbed me deeply. And I heard that a certain church was going to picket her funeral in support of the shooter for pities sake? What is wrong with the world today? We need remember that human life is precious, that everyone has the right to one and that politicians are also human with families and mothers and fathers and children, just like the rest of us.

  39. Wonderful, heartfelt post, Theresa. I can't believe someone put that up on Sarah Palin's site. Shame on them and shame on sarah for leaving it up there! She's a mother too!

    What happend in Arizona is awful. We all need to be watchful of each other and see when someone is flailing and help them...not ignore it. We need to be kind and respectful to each other no matter what our political views.

  40. @ Talei, great points. While each death is heartbreaking, I agree the child's death is the most tragic. Yes, every human life is precious. We should be doing all we can to protect the people around us rather than allow rhetoric calling for their destruction.

    @ Sharon, watching out for signs that someone may commit an act of violence cannot be overlooked. Thank you for pointing that out!

  41. Hi Theresa .. I'm totally with you - just too tired to add more .. but I agree - if only we could be more compassionate - I really do not like putting everyone down all the time.

    You're right .. very good post - Hilary

  42. @ Hilary, thank you. Compassion - perfect word.

  43. There are some ugly comments found online. They turn my stomach. And I feel that they're Freudian slips typed in the heat of the moment, whether or not people regret sharing them. That's probably how they really think. And that's scary.

  44. @ Medeia, that's bad enough. What about the people who plan it? They go to protests carrying signs that say, "I'm not armed.. this time." Those are the people who really scare me.

  45. Very moving post. It's sad but very true that people will twist a tragedy to further their own politic agenda.

  46. @ Erica, that is sad. Sometimes 09/11 was used that way. I hope this tragedy isn't.