January 9, 2011

Rep. Giffords, from my perspective


This has been an interesting and upsetting weekend. Here's some trivia: Gabrielle Giffords is the only current member of Congress whom I've met and spoken with personally (unless you count the time I shook Frank Lautenberg's hand when I was ten). I'm sure she wouldn't remember me, but a very good friend of mine was her campaign manager in 2006 and 2010; he was not in Tucson yesterday but is en route there now. I've followed her career for five years, have given her money, and have been very impressed with her. She's on an extremely short list of congress members whom I'd call myself a fan of.

So naturally, Rep. Giffords has been on my mind. And as always, trivia is on my mind; that's just who I am. On my Twitter feed yesterday, I posted a couple of factoids about the congresswoman (or, more accurately, about those around her):

—Her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, and his twin brother are the only sibling pair to both have traveled into space.

Jim Kolbe, the man who Giffords replaced in Congress in 2007, is one of only two openly gay Republican congressmen in history.

I was afraid at first that tweeting these would seem insensitive—now's not the time for trivia—but I don't think so (though I did lose two Twitter followers at some point yesterday). I'm being apolitical here, and naturally my primary concern is the welfare of the congresswoman and the other victims. I just found these facts interesting is all, and figured others would as well.

And then there's this: I couldn't help but wonder yesterday how often members of U.S. Congress have been targeted by assassins, and Salon answered the call. Read this account of members of Congress who have been killed while in office; thankfully, there are only five names on the list. All three of the 20th-century examples are well known to me; the stories of Huey Long and Robert Kennedy have been told a million times, but I'm particularly intrigued by what happened to Leo Ryan. If you'd like to know more about that incident, I highly recommend the documentary Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, a fascinating and horrible American story.

But I wish Salon had mentioned how many congress members have been attacked and managed to survive. At least for now, that's the category Rep. Giffords belongs in, and I sincerely hope she remains there.