Tragedy in Tucson

Saturday morning I was working on a post about Arizona’s new law that makes it illegal to teach Mexican-American studies in Tucson’s public schools. It is shocking, racist, and like the Arizona immigration law, horrible foreshadowing to what’s possible in a country so divided.

But then something happened that I never would have imagined in my hometown. Jared L. Loughner allegedly shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in front of a Safeway where Gifford was holding a mini town hall. Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green who wanted to meet her congresswoman was killed along with a Federal Judge John M. Roll and 4 other people.

What is going on in Arizona and what is next? Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnick, who I consider a vocal voice of reason in the state after calling Arizona’s immigration law “racist” and initially refusing to enforce it, had a grim analysis. He said in a news conference Saturday, “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately I think Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

What’s so shocking to me is not that the shooting happened in Arizona, but that it happened in Tucson. Like Rep. Raul Grijalva said on Meet the Press Sunday, Tucson has a million people, but it’s a small town.

For example, when my dad was in the hospital a couple of years ago, I called a random flower shop to order a bouquet. The woman who answered knew my brother and she was genuinely concerned for our family. Even though I oppose the state’s immigration law and am baffled by how Arizona Governor Jan Brewer got elected, whenever I go home I come back feeling good about the world.

I took my kids to Tucson 3 weeks ago to see family and friends. The weather was perfect and we had such a great time seeing all of the people we love. The friends and family I grew up with in Tucson are reasonable, generous people and I feel for the sadness and conflict they are going through. One friend said an email to me that the state is so backward, “I sometimes can’t believe I live here.”

But I can. I always thought that if Los Angeles got to be too much I could just move us home. Back to the easy life that Tucson affords. Nice people, affordable housing, and family and friends. My friends who live there say that in spite of all of the political craziness in the state, Tucson is a great place to raise a family.

That sounds hard to believe of a city in a state called the capital of hatred and bigotry by one of its own law enforcement leaders. But deep down I always felt like Tucson, my home, was the one safe place in the world left to go. But after this tragedy, I don’t think that’s true anymore.