Tucson is officially on the map. Not for anything gorgeous like our weather or saguaro. Nor for anything unique or even inane, like our javelina or multi-million-dollar trolley.
We’ve instead joined the ranks of notorious places plagued by senseless violence.
The sunny Saturday Safeway shooting that left six dead and several wounded—with U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords shot through the brain—made sure of that.
We’re right up there with Columbine and Waco.
To be fair, Tucson did have a running start as a hotbed of hatred due to last summer’s SB 1070 brouhaha. Angry protests and flag burning set the stage for something to snap.
We just didn’t yet know his name.
Suspected shooter Jared Lee Loughner is now surrounded by a slate of speculation on what makes him tick. The only thing we know for sure is that anyone who opens at a Safeway has to have a clock that is more than a bit off.
In addition to shattering dozens of lives, the shooting shattered many myths to which we might have been clinging for a sense of security and sanity.
We’ll start with the victims. Even some people who do not agree with Giffords’ politics agree on another fact—she actually cared. The shooting proved assassination attempts are not specifically reserved for greedy, ratty or smarmy politicians, or even judges with whom the shooter has a beef.
Victim U.S. District Judge John Roll had been on the scene to visit Giffords at her community event.
Others on hand were average Tucsonans, like you and me, either hoping to meet the congresswoman or out for their usual grocery run.
The shooting’s location shatters another myth. We expect high crime to seethe from the seedier pockets of Tucson, or even downtown after dark, but not a northwest-side neighborhood nestled near the foothills at Oracle and Ina roads.
The area is instead generally known for quiet retired folks and shops that include a Whole Foods mart and a chichi Chico’s—not a place where buying asparagus on the weekend can get you killed.
Often referred to as a big city with a small town feel, Tucson’s cute little motto has also now gone down the tubes. The small-town citizen is supposed to leave his doors unlocked and his arms open wide. He’s the type ready to help his fellow man, or woman, by changing a tire, repairing a roof or even walking a dog if the owner is under the weather — not open fire on his fellow with a Glock.
Welcome to the big time.
One of the reasons I moved out of New York City was the pervading sense of doom the city could not shake loose after Sept. 11.
Increased security measures, meant to make people feel safer, also served to increase the paranoia. Cops stocked subway stations and street corners in droves, responding to the latest bomb scare or a report that someone who looked suspicious might have sneezed.
Tucson simply does not have enough money or manpower to take the same kind of measures. Even if it did, such measures would not make much of a difference when there’s always a chance of a loose cannon striking at any random moment and any random time and place.
Even on a sunny Saturday at Safeway.
Ryn Gargulinski, aka Rynski, is a writer, artist, performer and poet. Her radio show airs every Wednesday and her column appears every Friday. See more writing and art from RYNdustries at ryngargulinski.com and rynski.etsy.com.