LatinaLista.net — Ever since the senseless shootings in Tucson, I, like many people have experienced a range of emotions: horrified shock that such an act would be committed against innocent people; anger that life was lost from young to old; pride that a young Latino would have the courage and state of mind to know what to do to save his boss; admiration for people in their golden years who mustered up the strength and resolve to disarm the shooter and finally, relief.
It sounds strange to list relief as one of the emotions but in the aftermath of the shootings, when no one knew the killer’s motivation and people from all walks of life were connecting the political dots, it was a relief that a spontaneous national consensus was formed blaming the violence on political rhetoric.
It was a relief, though arrived at before the mental state of the killer was fully known, that it was finally being acknowledged by our political leaders that political rhetoric has reached such a crescendo in this country that it endangers real people’s lives.
It is something that the Latino immigrant community has been living with ever since anti-immigrant groups have been reciting and distributing distorted and false information to purposely inflame politicians and their constituents to react negatively against the presence of undocumented immigrants.
Because of this rhetoric, Latino immigrants have lost their lives for doing nothing more than walking down the street when attacked by teen vigilantes who believed the rhetoric that Latino immigrants were fair game and there would be no consequences in killing a Latino.
Because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric perpetuated by politicians, some citizens have felt empowered to “defend” their country from Latinos through either physical force, verbal assaults or intimidation. (I don’t differentiate between Latinos and Latino immigrants because who knows the difference in the heat of an attack?)
Because of the vile rhetoric allowed to flourish in Washington, it has filtered down to city councils and state legislatures where laws to punish and criminalize hard-working undocumented immigrants, who have been part of communities for years, are taking precedence over addressing local or state economic, educational and health issues.
In that single moment when everyone, from the Congressmen and women in Washington to city and state leaders, thought they were in part to blame for the Tucson shooting, and it caused them to reflect on their words and actions, it can only be hoped that the realization that the way politics is spoken needs to change doesn’t fade once business as usual gets underway.
Otherwise, nothing will have been learned from this tragedy, and that would be a tragedy unto itself.