Thursday, January 13, 2011

From Senator Lamar Alexander

January 12, 2011

Dear Dee,

Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what's on your mind regarding the shooting of Congressman Gabrielle Giffords. I was horrified by this attack that left six people dead and over a dozen wounded. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families.

This rampage occurred as Congresswoman Giffords was meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona at a "Congress on Your Corner" event in front of a supermarket - just days after the congresswoman participated in the reading of the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives where she read the First Amendment - perhaps our most prized amendment. That event in Tucson was supposed to be exactly what the First Amendment is about: peaceable assembly and the right to petition the government. That's such a fabric of American life that we have to continue it.

Of course, we want civility instead of incivility - and, of course, we don't want violence. But, in all the talk of this tragic attack, we have to be careful about imputing the motives or actions of a deranged individual to any particular group of Americans who have their own political beliefs. What we know about this individual, for example, is that he read works by Karl Marx and Adolph Hitler. We know that he posted a video of someone burning the American flag. That's not the profile of a typical Tea Party member, and that's the inference being made by some. It's tempting to say this person's actions might have been a result of this other person's comments, but I think we need to be very, very careful about imputing any of these actions to someone else.

Obviously, we're much better off in our country if we peaceably assemble, treat each other with respect, show courtesy, and condemn people who go over the line - and particularly those who do it violently as we saw in Tucson. Even as we vigorously debate difficult issues like immigration or taxes or the health care law - and vigorous debate is what the First Amendment is all about - we ought to respect each other's ideas and do our best not to inflame passions.

I'm grateful you took the time to let me know where you stand. I'll be sure to keep your comments in mind as this tragic event is discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.



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