The Washington Post ran a story today about our town. Their story focuses on opposition to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords here, in this border town in the region where half the country's undocumented immigrant arrests are made. It was unusual to see the Post even acknowledge our little town. Unfortunately, their reporters missed the real story.
We've spent time with Gabby Giffords in Douglas. We've seen her surrounded by supporters and well-wishers, people who voted for her, people who know that she's one of the voices of reason and sanity in a bitterly divided Congress. We know ranchers whose property abuts the border, who are friends of the family of murdered rancher Rob Krentz, and who are totally behind Gabby because they know she listens to and cares about their concerns. They know, too, that illegal immigration is down by about half from the highs of 2004-2005.
We were at the Safeway in Douglas the day someone dropped a gun on the floor. That was the summer of 2009, when tempers were high and every town hall meeting, it seemed, was volatile. But despite the gun incident, we saw town halls on TV that summer that appeared far more threatening and dangerous. The police came out, they determined that the man who had dropped the gun was not a threat to Gabby, and though they stayed through the rest of the event, the atmosphere was not particularly tense. Gabby stayed the entire time she said she would, and talked to a long line of people, many acrimonious, many others supportive. We didn't bother waiting in line because by the time we got there, her staffers told us she probably wouldn't have time for everyone. I had met her once before, at a debate in another city, had been impressed by her intellect and her courage and her friendliness, and though we were disappointed, it was our own fault for arriving late. We stayed a while, did some shopping, and went home.
Yes, there was a lot of bitter invective hurled at Gabby during the 2010 election cycle, including ridiculous billboards painting her as a Pelosi puppet (though nothing could be further from the truth). There was a constant stream of TV and radio ads railing against her. Jared Loughner's anger with her seems to stem from a 2007 encounter, but it's impossible that he wasn't exposed to some of the rage directed her way in the fall of 2010 (and impossible to say how that exposure was interpreted by his troubled mind).
At the same time, she's a Democrat who keeps bucking the odds, winning races in a largely red state, because she appeals across party lines. The extremists don't like her. For the most part, they don't like anyone who doesn't echo their own nonsense back at them, and that's true not just here but around the country. The Post seems to have come here looking for examples that fit their predetermined narrative. I can only imagine they had a harder time finding those examples than they would have if they'd come looking for people who respect and admire Gabby. Maybe that wouldn't have been newsworthy right now--she's been the subject of kind words from tea partiers and Republican party leaders and the president and many others. But it would be closer to the truth of the situation.