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Thinking of Tucson

January 17, 2011

I would like to address the situation that unfolded in Tucson earlier this month. I wish I were more well-read on the banter and ideas that have surfaced since January 7, but I did not keep up with it after that weekend. But I want to document how close to home that hit.

I can’t tell you how many grocery stores I sat in with a member of Congress. As an intern, as campaign staff, and as district staff, I attended and organized many Congress on Your Corner events. I remember wishing for a sweater as we set up our booth in the produce section. I remember wearing tons of layers as my boss shook hands with commuters at train stations. I remember feeling proud of my boss and how friendly he/she was and how well he/she listened to his/her constituents. They were fantastic events.

But I also remember thinking that I was all the protection my boss got that day. There were no Secret Service, of course, but there were also no local police officers, no back up, no staffer with a baseball bat… just in case. I remember how vulnerable it felt to be the body guard in heels. I think it’s something always in the back of the staffers’ minds, the what ifs.

We’d heard our share of crazy people, after all.

I took a phone call as an intern that insisted my boss should be tarred, feathered, and run out of Indiana. I took another phone call that was adamant gays have no rights in this country. I distinctly remember locking the door and hiding in the copy room when left alone in the office as an intern… one of our regulars was coming to visit again and I was not comfortable with his stories about having a restraining order against the President. As a staffer, we received multiple faxes detailing vehicles in front of a man’s house who was certain the government was spying on him. He was convinced the FBI had bugged his home. Another woman wanted me to tell my boss about the Muslims who skin Marines. I remember a meeting with multiple city officials and media folks who, at the mention of a certain woman’s name, all knew how she was a vagabond because the “squirrels” were out to get her.

There are crazy people out there. And they want their government officials to do crazy things for them.

Yes, the rhetoric is heated and out of hand. But that is not to blame for what happened on January 7. There is no reason to be pointing fingers at anyone other than the man with the gun.

There are crazy people out there. And that’s who is to blame.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2011 1:58 pm

    Love this post & your view.
    And I agree with you 100%.
    I’m also really glad that you are safe/were safe and thank you for serving our country in your own way during the intership!

  2. January 18, 2011 12:49 pm

    Beautifully put, Renee. I love this post and how you sum everything up because I agree with you.

    I can’t imagine having to hear those stories as a intern/staffer working in a Congressman’s office. I can’t imagine thinking about being the only protection your boss has. I can’t imagine dealing with so many crazy people who believe crazy things.

  3. January 24, 2011 1:51 pm

    I turn to Congressman Steve Driehaus, speaking with Speaker (ugh) Boehner about some strong language he’d used in the campaign season:

    >Driehaus is quick to point out that he doesn’t think Boehner meant to urge anyone to violence. “But it’s not about what he intended — it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.” http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2011/1/9/934863/-Bone-chilling-prescience-from-Matt-Taibbi

    That about says it all. I remember the letter I got in my congressional internship that started, “There is a secret CIA inside the CIA…” And another dude who opened the phone call with “I wanna know how much Earl spent on that goddamn [racial epithet for Japanese person] car he drives!”

    I’m conflicted, though – I absolutely love the fact that we allow such direct access with our political leaders… and yet. And yet…

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