Mom: Pray for Gabrielle Giffords

On Saturday, I’d spent the day out visiting friends, not glued to my computer as usual, so it wasn’t until nearly midnight that I heard about the shooting of a Congresswoman in Arizona, from a friend who’d come over to watch a movie. She couldn’t remember the name. “Gabrielle Giffords?” I said, and laughed at myself for being able to come up with the name of an Arizona Congresswoman so easily.

That was because of my mother, a diehard Democrat who relocated to Tucson from Maine five years ago. When Mom likes someone or something, she’s not likely to keep quiet about it. I already knew, for example, that Giffords was only 40 years old, married to an astronaut, an outspoken opponent of the state’s infamous immigration legislation, a member of a progressive Jewish congregation, and yet still able to defeat her Republican (or as my mom would say, “Repugnican”) challenger in November. Mom had Giffords bumper stickers and e-mailled Giffords articles to my brother and I; she had interviewed the representative everyone calls “Gabby” for the Arizona Jewish Post, where she is the assistant editor. “I didn’t always agree with her,” Mom says. (The grim irony: Giffords was a proud gun-owner.) “But I trusted her.” This is very high praise from a woman who still holds George McGovern up as her political hero.

So I was briefly terrified on Saturday that Mom would have gone to Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event as a supporter. Thankfully she didn’t—although the shooting did occur at the same Safeway that her boyfriend’s parents regularly shop at. But when I talked to Mom the next morning, she was badly shaken. She was heartbroken talking about Christina Green, the 9-year-old girl born on September 11, 2001, who went to hear the Congresswoman because she was interested in government. Mom could see in this girl a ghost of herself, earnest, dedicated.

Ever the advocate, Mom worried about the shooting’s effect on her beloved city, which she always says is more like a small town, where everyone knows everyone. She worried that talk of the shooter’s psychological instability would lead to increasing stigmatization of the mentally ill. Mom is very proud to be on the board of Tucson’s Cafe 54, which provides training and support for “individuals recovering from mental illness,” and she has been attending meetings at NAMI to learn more about the various disorders present in our family. She worried that the temporary civilizing effect of the shooting on the public discourse would not last, and the targeting of those with opposing viewpoints would continue. She worried that it would now become impossible to go to any public event in Tucson without being surrounded by guards with guns.

I worried, for her sake. Today, Mom sent me the story she wrote about the healing service that Giffords’ synagogue held for the shooting victims on Sunday. Please read it and pass it on, and–I can’t believe I’m recommending this—add your prayers to theirs, that none of my Mom’s worries come true.

Brook Wilensky-Lanford is the author of Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (Grove Press, 2011). An editor of Killing the Buddha, she lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Follow Brook on Twitter: @modmyth