Ability may get you to the top. but it takes character to keep you there.
- John Wooden
A man of courage flees forward, in the midst of new things.
It’s easy to become very cynical very quickly when considering the sorry state of American politics. Republican obstructionism and Ayn Rand-inspired classism, Democratic lack of moral courage and absence of anything resembling the strength of their convictions, and the Tea Party’s Koch-fueled bat-$#!% lunacy. There’s certainly no lack of shortcomings to despair over…which is why I want to talk about Gabby Giffords. While politicians and those who care about politics have been fussing over various and assorted policy disagreements and ascribing personal motives and/or shortcomings to those who think and believe differently, Giffords has put us all to shame.
A year ago, on a quiet, sunny Tucson Saturday morning, Giffords was conducting one of her many “Congress On Your Corner” events, this one at a Safeway. Before anyone really knew what had happened, a Demented-American named Jared Loughner fired several shots from a pistol he’d brought with him that morning. His aim was to kill a Congresswoman…and he almost succeeded. People died, people were wounded, and Giffords, the intended target, suffered a grievous head wound. The first reports, including the manner in which I first heard the news, indicated that Giffords had been killed. Her husband, Mark Kelly, was in Houston when he heard that his wife had been murdered.
Think about that for a moment. Image being two states away from your spouse, and you hear about their murder via the media….
Ah, but I digress. This is not a story about hatred and violence; it’s a story about courage, love, endurance and tenacity, one that we can all find inspiration in.
Remarkably, Giffords survived. Even more remarkably, Giffords has persevered. After many long hours of extensive retraining and therapy, Giffords can communicate. Sure, she her speech is labored and sometimes halting. I find it difficult not to listen to Giffords without my heart going out to her and her husband. She’s fortunate to be alive, much less ambulatory and able to communicate. Her recovery has been nothing short of inspiring. Still, lurking in the background has been the question of her political career. It really shouldn’t be a consideration, but for those who believe politics to be a zero-sum game, one party’s disadvantage is another advantage, which should be maximized before circumstances change.
I can’t imagine, given what she’s been through, that politics is much of a priority, though Giffords clearly cares deeply about her work and her constituents. Whether or not she could sustain a campaign and, if successful, continue to fully and effectively represent her Congressional district is a question in search of an answer. No one knows…but Giffords has decided that her priorities lie with her recovery and her husband…and who could argue with that? She could try to continue her political career, and she’d have a significant groundswell of public sympathy behind her, but she recognizes that her political career is not her life. In an age of careerist, self-absorbed, Machiavellian political operatives, Giffords has decided to step away on her own terms, and the manner in which she did so exudes class in a way seldom seen these days.
If you haven’t watched the video, I’d highly suggest taking a couple minutes to do so. I found myself struck by how fortunate Giffords is to be alive, and how far she’s come in the past year. If you can’t take inspiration from Giffords’ words, you might want to check to see if you’re still in possession of a soul.
No one can know the future, but I can’t help but think that perhaps Giffords will ultimately be a stronger and more influential voice away from Capitol Hill. We should all wish her much love and success. She deserves it.