— Marc R. Stanley and Marc Winkelman
We are stunned and horrified by the attack today on Gabby Giffords, Arizona’s first Jewish Congresswoman. Representative Giffords is a courageous and vibrant leader dedicated to advancing the causes and values we care so deeply about. Beyond being an advocate for health care reform and immigration reform, as well as the people of Arizona, she is our close friend. Gabby, those who were murdered and injured, and their families all remain in our thoughts and prayers.
The tragic attack on Representative Giffords, her staff, and citizens participating in the practice of democracy in Arizona is beyond reprehensible. One suspect, now in custody, may be directly responsible for this crime. But it is fair to say – in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric – that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired. Throughout the health care reform debate, we saw an ever-worsening level of political discourse – frequently pointing fingers at Democratic members of Congress who were supposedly directly threatening our country and our way of life. As elections approached, members of Congress increasingly received death threats, even as our public debate became more and more coarse.
Image from SarahPAC.com showing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as one of Sarah Palin’s targets.
As we learned in Israel through the tragic assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, words – and an eroding public discourse – can have profound consequences. The rhetoric of hate and anger must be banished from our political discourse before the next calamity takes place.
The loss of any life – and the injury of any American – is unacceptable. While we do not yet know exactly what motivated this deranged gunman, improving the tenor of our public debate can only help. It is up to us to act now. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.
Video of Rep. Giffords response to vandalism at her office follows the jump.