Please Let Us Take Time... This Time

- by Caleb Pritt

It's been 8 years and a month since a plane went down in driving snow in Minnesota snuffing out the life of one of the greater progressive pioneers to ever serve this nation. In the ensuing days as we, collectively as a community, coped with the loss of this man, his wife, his daughter, and others on the plane, the Memorial Service which began so majestically and melodically ended in a blaze of partisan political rhetoric. Eight days later, a popular former Vice President of the United States was defeated in a bid to replace this man in the U.S. Senate by a political manipulator. I of course am talking about the death of U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife & daughter, and the quixotic Senate campaign between Walter F. Mondale & Norm Coleman. But what was lost, what has been forgotten in those days is the memory of a former coach, of a man who fought hard but fought with dignity & honor, and a man who dedicated his life to public service. What was lost were the other people on the plane who also had the light of their lives snuffed out. The partisan rhetoric grew to such a crescendo because of the memorial service turning political that there are plausible theories out now, how George W. Bush supposedly ordered the assasination of Paul Wellstone. The irony in the story is that Wellstone was on his way to the funeral of another man who had served Minnestoa admirably in the State Senate, when the accident happened.

Two and a half years ago, an hour or so after I had left the headquarters of the Arkansas Democratic Party in downtown Little Rock, an obsessed and mentally disturbed individual charged into the office, barged into the Chairman's office, and brutally shot & killed a man I had gotten to know, respected, and whom I respectfully called, "My Chairman." Then the killer went on a crazy high speed chase that ended up in his life ending in a hail of bullets. I, like so many people, numbly sat in the pew at Pulaski Heights Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas days later as we listened to stories, remembered, and then buried Bill Gwatney. Chairman Gwatney was a good man, truly. A man who had compassion for seeing that those who were not considered part of the "in crowd" still got to have a seat at the table and take part in the proceedings. Chairman Gwatney was fair and he was a man of integrity. Yet it disturbed me how the talk in the media turned towards the politics of the moment.

Now, a day and a half after the events in Tuscon, Arizona, I have to say this is not about Sarah Palin, this is not about the Tea Party or Liberals, this is not about gun control, this is not about a new currency, this is not about security for Members of Congress. This is about eighteen people who have had their lives unalterably changed forever. This is about a nine year old girl, elected to her school's student council, who was taken from us and never given the chance to fulfill her life. This is about an older man, who apparently gave his life shielding his wife. This is about a guy who was engaged to be married and spent his life helping those who were not part of the "in crowd." This is about a man who had just come from Mass and taught us that just because he was a Federal Judge didn't mean he couldn't work with a member of another branch of government, his Congresswoman, to alleviate the overcrowding and backlogging of cases in the Federal Courts. This is about two women who while retired still gave back to their community to the extent one was featured in a local newspaper article just a month ago about how she was taking a lifetime of knowledge and mentoring others.

I am troubled by how we have dived immiediately into the politics of this event. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR POLITICS. There is a time and place for everything and now is not, nor should it even be considered, appropriate or allowable by the media to talk about liberal v. conservative, tea v. coffee parties, or Sarah Palin v. whomever. This is a time for the victims, the survivors, and the heroes. This is a time for the people of this moment.

This time first, in my opinion, is for Christina Green, Dorwin Stoddard, Phyllis Schneck, Dorothy Murray, John Stoll, and Gabe Zimmerman. This is a time to honor them and thank their families and thank God for the joy, the life experiences, the essence that each of them brought to this earth and then to life. Then this is the time to encourage and do all we can to pray for the speedy and safe recoveries of twelve other people that include U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Pray for the doctors and the nurses and the medical personnel as well as their families for the coming days, weeks, months, and yes years of recovery from this moment. Let us honor the heroes who took down and sudued this madman. Let's spend a week or two commending them for going into the fire... the line of fire to prevent further death and injury.

Once we have exhausted those areas, and I mean fully done justice for those people, then if we have the energy or the stamina left, then we can argue about the influence of Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Ideological Fights.

And the assassin... I say no attention should be given to this attention-seeking drug user. I am a compassionate person. I believe we all make mistakes... but there's a line we all cross from troubled to enabling a madman. Do not focus on his drug use, his antics in class, or his inability to enter the U.S. Army. In fact, do not focus on him at all.

Let us take time... take time to reflect, be thankful for those around us, and take time to honor those no longer among us. Politics can come later. But this is not the time for politics.

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