We had a real tragedy in Arkansas today. Oh it wasn't an unusual one in any way. It wasn't one involving hundreds of people or massive damage to homes and property. It will get a big spot in the nightly news and the media folks will cover it for a few days and then something else will come along and take it's place. But it was an event that will affect a lot of people for a long time to come.
This morning a man walked into the Democratic Party Headquarters and shot the Chairman, Bill Gwatney, several times. Bill died later at the hospital. The suspect left that office and got into a chase with police and was later shot and killed himself. Bill was 48, had a wife and 2 daughters, a lot of family and a host of friends. He had once been a state senator here in Arkansas, for 10 years I think.
I don't know why this man was so angry/upset/frustrated/overwhelmed that he would do such a thing. It doesn't matter really. What does matter is that a man is dead and the people who love him are hurting. I don't know why the suspect chose this route to settle what he obviously thought was wrong in his world but I do know that he is ordinary. He is routine. He is every day in America.
The tragedy, as I see it, involves much more than the death of one man, though I don't want to minimize the loss his life will be to many, many people. The tragedy is that it does happen every day, every hour. Senseless murder, senseless anger, senseless hatred, senseless racism, senseless greed. If you're like me you get several hate filled e-mails a day preaching to us about some political candidate or his opponent, about people who are gay or who belong to a different religion than "us." Oh it's not blatant hate in the e-mail; it's always hidden beneath a message of "would you want this man to be your president?" or "this religion is made up of terrorists" or "love the sinner but hate the sin." When did we decide it was ok in this land of the free to force others to believe like we do, to dress like we do, to talk like we do, to act like we do?
I love the movie "An American President" because I could listen to his speech at the end of the movie over and over and over. In it he says that if you really love America and love her flag then you'll defend the person who burns it. That says it all. I might not agree with your opinion, the way you drive or how often you don't mow your grass - I might not like tatoos or purple spiked hair or blouses that stop below the breasts showing parts of your body I'd rather not see - I might not understand why you insist on riding helmetless on a motorcycle or won't bathe every day or yell obscenities at football games, but I will defend your right to do these things.
I don't know if today's murder was because of political differences or personal differences and it doesn't matter I don't suppose. It was a tragedy whatever the reason. And the real tragedy is that this kind of event happens every day and we can't seem to stop it.