I’m not an Arizonan, but I am an American. So, in my mind, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords belongs to me, and every other American like me, as much as she belongs to a Phoenician or Tucsonan or resident of Chuichu, Gunsight, Cucklebur, Jackrabbit, Surprise or even Why.
Because on Aug. 1 in the nation’s capital, in the middle of all those politicians acting like spoiled 2-year-olds fighting over the toy truck that is control of Washington, D.C., along came the quiet dignity of Congresswoman Giffords. To vote. So the fragile deficit-limit-raising deal wouldn't collapse along with the nation’s economy. Just in case hers might have been the deciding “Aye.”
That’s true grace under pressure.
Never mind that she’s still rehabilitating from being shot point-blank in the head in January, and almost died. Never mind that her speech appears to still be a bit halting, and standing up for a long time seemed to tire her out.
Never mind all that. Gabby Giffords was going to Washington on Monday. To vote. To represent her people in the manner they expect from her. Calmly. Decisively. With poise and gravity and a twinkle in her eyes as she waved to her colleagues on both sides of the aisle, some of whom were in tears as they applauded her first return to the floor of the house.
As were those of us at home.
What grace. What dedication. What timing. Just when the damaged goods, our political system, needed her most, there was Gabby.
Sadly, the aura of love, warmth and collegiality in the House and Senate was fleeting. By Tuesday afternoon — after senators voted and Obama affixed his presidential signature on the bill that nobody likes but which did keep us from going off the financial precipice — the 2-year-olds went back to squabbling again, snatching the peanut-butter sandwich and fighting over the teeter-totter that is politics.
"No, I won't!" With feet stamping and little fists clenched with toddler-style fury, they were not going to fund the FAA, no sir, so there.
Mind you, that petty, partisan political bickering is costing you and me a mint (for openers, $200 million a week in ticket taxes that won’t be collected, for an estimated $1 billion total).
Their nondecision also puts 70,000 airport-construction workers out of work for at least five more weeks and furloughed 4,000 FAA employees. That’s just wonderful for the economy, right? Not to mention the crushing impact it will have on those good people facing down their mortgages, credit-card bills, rising food expenses and their children’s tuition payments, due soon.
And these are the decisions of legislators who say their Holy Grail is creating jobs for Americans?
Repeat after me: Not all politicians behave like spoiled brats. There really are good ones in Washington, Sacramento and other political hot spots. Really there are.
They can be forceful without being whiny, firm without being mean. They stand up for their beliefs, yes, but they do it nicely, knowing when to compromise decently and remember their manners, saying “please” and “thank you” the way their mothers taught them to do. And those truly good legislators do their homework — they know that saying the dog ate it is not allowed.
They don’t call names, they don’t throw tantrums and they don’t use political spitballs. They act like the intelligent adults we thought they were when we elected them.
Adults with the backbone and courage of Gabby Giffords: That's the quality, the character and commitment I want representing all of us in Congress.
Maybe, if our legislators would all take a pledge that, when and if they actually do grow up, they’ll be as full of grace and grit as Gabby Giffords, then perhaps we could actually get something constructive done in Washington.