Responding to Violence against Those in Public Life
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization committed to overcoming violence in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world, is deeply saddened by the violence of January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona, when an attempt to kill U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords brought death and injury to so many.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all victims of the shooting, as well as their families and friends who are now mourning the deceased and anxiously awaiting the recovery of the injured. As Friends say, we are holding them in the Light.
In our work for peace, we have seen how each act of violence hurts not only the immediate victims, but tears at the fabric of entire communities. In the wake of such a senseless violation, everyone in Tucson will struggle to feel secure, to regain trust for each other, and to work together to move forward. Our hearts go out to all in Tucson today.
Today’s strident political atmosphere escalates tension and helps to set the stage for incidents like this one. Our world is increasingly swept up in a tide of intolerance. We are all too accepting when political and spiritual leaders use rhetoric that demonizes those with different beliefs; when those who should call us to higher purpose, instead, contribute to an atmosphere that provokes the most vulnerable, disturbed among us to acts of vandalism, violence, and assassination. We all must take responsibility for correcting a political climate that has become so polarized and vitriolic.
It is not an accident that this tragic shooting took place in Arizona, where punitive laws and anti-immigrant scapegoating have only resulted in misunderstanding and divisiveness in our borderlands. These laws have brought us no closer to creating humane, workable policies that respect the rights and needs of those living on either side of the border. This is but one example of how our nation’s divisive rhetoric works against developing effective solutions to society’s pressing needs.
What would help us move forward?
The American Friends Service Committee urges our elected officials, spiritual leaders and community leaders to commit now to act with civility and common purpose to heal our society. Real healing goes beyond civil words and tamped-down rhetoric and looks to the root causes of violence in our society, the conditions of inequality and injustice. A political culture devoted to honestly and reasonably addressing those conditions would be a healthier one for all of us.
We call on national, state, and local leaders to respond with compassion to the needs and aspirations of those who have been disenfranchised by the political system and excluded from the economic recovery. This is a time to fulfill the promise of “justice for all.” This is a time for leadership towards “a more perfect union.”