A memorial

Saturday January 8, a crazy evil man shot 20 people just because they were standing in the wrong place. He killed six people and seriously injured 14 others and as we all know put congresswoman Gifford in a coma.

Here’s the list of the six who were killed.  I found it strangely difficult to find after a simple web search, so I put them here at the top of this blog, because human life taken is a tragedy and these names deserve to be remembered as part of honoring the dignity of their human life:

* Christina Greene, 9

*  John Roll, 63

* Dorthy Murray, 76

* Dorwin Stoddard, 76

* Phyllis Sheck, 79

* Gabriel Zimmerman, 30

I find it frustrating that a web search for a simple list of the human lives taken by this killer (whose name you will be more likely to remember than the victims names, so I omit his and include there’s) lead me instead to political finger pointing articles and names like Pelosi and Palin instead of the memorials to the poor human lives lost.  In fact it took me much longer than I would have expected to get that simple list of names I wanted to remember in this post.

I think the average american’s immediate reaction to this crime was probably exactly right: shock, horror, sorrow and anger directed at the gunman, the actual killer. And yet the talking heads seem to think it necessary to complicate and even correct this immediate visceral response. Instead we are told that our anger should be with those who favor gun controls or with those who don’t favor them enough…or with Rush Limbaugh …or president Obama… or talk radio…or network news.

But when someone is dead they are neither democrat nor republican and when an evil and crazy man acts alone murdering six people he surely represents nothing and noone but himself and only the devil rejoices.

It was not an accident, or a conspiracy.  There is no reason or rhyme.  The victims were not an abstract American public, but living people who are now dead and their families who suffer their loss.  The murderer was not a culture which has lost civility, but a mad man who believed he was being mind controlled by the Government.  This tragedy is not a “situation” to be exploited for personal gain, but a tragic reminder that we live in a fallen world where evil sometimes overwhelms sanity.  There is no simple legislative solution, or rhetorical nicety which can change this fact.  But neither is this a reflection of a culture of escalating violence (murder rates have actually dropped by 10 thousand in the last ten years) or a world gone completely mad.  In fact, it is because of our basic sanity, our desire to believe in a God and a universe more orderly, less irrational that we reach for the “whys”, even when the answers we come up with are silly or driven by our own selfishness.

It is important to reach for that beauty and truth, and rightness, that our soul tells us exists, but it is also important to recognize that wrongness (or evil, if you prefer) is real, that people do really wrong things, and finding someone other than the perpetrator to blame will neither prevent it from happening again, nor make the wrongness done, any more right.

I don’t want to turn this event toward my own soapbox either, and I can’t pretend to speak for any of the victim’s families or for the 14 wounded victims, among them Gabrielle Gifford, whose families begin the slow agonizing wait for recovery and healing.  I only know that I wanted to remind you of the victims themselves, and that I’ve done.


  1. Well said. Even though the killer made his own choices and took his own actions, I believe that no man is an island. Because I, too, have considered taking action in response to the devicive language that has been common recently, I choose to tone down my rhetoric and ask others to do the same so that my words don’t cause someone to go over the edge.

    1. But while I am in favor of civil discourse and toned down rhetoric on all sides, there is historically no connection between heated rhetoric and political assassinations. Seems to me that attempt to blame this killers actions at all on any of the commentators or speakers is just distracting and exploitative. There is evidence of zero connection in this case with any of the political movements of any shade, left or right.

  2. Just wanted to say from what I can tell, both President Obama and the republican Governor Jan Brewer, spoke very well and appropriately at the memorial, despite the inappropriate audience response at times.

  3. Thanks, David, for reminding me that those who died were part of a family, a connection of people – that was violently torn apart. It is painful to talk about the individuals who died, the talent, the potential that is gone forever and so much easier to talk about the collective “victims.” As I reread the list of those who died, I realize that these were brother/sister/in-law/daughter-in-law/niece/granddaugher who died. We have all been impoverished by the actions of one man.

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