Wednesday, April 24, 2013

He's Not My Senator Any More

Jeff Flake and his wife shared the stage with Gabby Giffords and her husband.  It was the anniversary of the day we were shot.  The mall at the University was transformed into an outdoor cathedral.  The symphony was there.  Calexico was there.  The survivors and the family members were there.  We were united in grief and resolve and remembering.  After the ceremonies, TBG and I went back on stage, so that he could thank Mark Kelly for the kindnesses he'd shown us in the hospital, all those months ago.  Right then, it didn't seem like much time had passed at all.  It was recent.  It was real.

While the guys were talking, I was taking pictures.  Mrs. Flake and Ms. Giffords were trying to get a picture of themselves by holding a cell phone at arms length.  You know that shot; you've probably taken dozens of them, yourself.  They were happy to accept my offer of help, and that was how I came to take several pictures of two couples who were friends. Arms around each other, shoulders crashing, smiles plastered on faces that also revealed the scars of the past year.  It was comic relief, it was a welcome slip into the every day, it was healing.  The four of them might have come from different ends of the political spectrum, but the Flakes were there to support the Kelly's, and I was there to record it for posterity.

I saw them together.  I watched him hold her hand; a comforting gesture from one who'd been behind the scenes in the State Legislature with her, from one who knew her, who liked her, who cared for her.  I believed it, then.  It was, I thought, a harbinger of things to come.


Last week, Gabby's friend voted to quash the background checks, to allow assault rifles and extended magazines, to maintain the status quo.  He did this despite the fact that 90% of his constituents favor background checks.

Who does he represent?  He certainly doesn't represent me.  Of the twenty-some phone calls I made last Wednesday, Senator Flake's office was the only one whose voice mail was full... from Tuesday evening through Wednesday afternoon.  I sent an email, again.  I really wanted to talk to a staffer but that was not to be.  I sent another email.  I'm still waiting for a reply.

Normally, I wouldn't expect a quick response.  Senators are busy people, after all.  But I received replies from other offices I contacted.  They were quick notes, "thanks for your comments" kind of things, but they were an acknowledgment that my views had been noted.  If Senators from other states can let me know they've heard me, I think it's reasonable to feel slighted by my own elected official.

Not that a response would necessarily be honest, or truthful.  Just look at this letter Senator Flake sent to Caren Teves, whose son died in Aurora:
There it is, at the end of the third paragraph: strengthening background checks is something we agree on. Probably not so much any more, I guess.

Is he representing the people who put him in office?  Of course.  Is he representing all of Arizona?  I don't think so.  Has he left us stranded on the political sidewalk, watching him vote away that which we'd worked so hard to achieve?  Seems like it.  Is he confident that we will have forgotten this little brouhaha by the time his re-election campaign comes around?  Perhaps.

I think he'll be surprised.  We are not going away.  We are not relinquishing our anger.  We will be represented.... by someone who listens and speaks the truth, by someone on whom we can count, by someone who knows what friendship means.

He didn't mind sharing the spotlight with Gabby and Mark in 2012.  I wonder how he's enjoying it right now.


  1. I was shocked by that letter and the audacity to go totally against what he told a mother whose son was brutally murdered in Aurora. Someone got to him and if the NRA can change a person like that, we are in way more trouble than we thought. BUT... we are not going away and we will not give up. I'm sure many of them think the American people will forget, but we will not and when it comes to mothers, he truly has no understanding of how much we will fight for our children and all children in this nation.

    Mark Kelly said this before the vote about Flake, "You know, friendship is one thing. Saving people's lives, especially first graders, is another thing."

    And he called him out on his vote on Twitter. I want Flake and the rest of the 44 that voted against background checks gone. They do not represent Americans; but the NRA. It's been a week and I don't know when I will stop being angry. I know it's not healthy, but damn it. We are going to have another shooting like this because these people put nothing in place to stop it. It's just a matter of time. I don't know if my heart can take anymore senseless deaths.

    Thanks for writing about this today.

    Megan xxx

    1. Angry is okay, Megan. It's much better than indifference or fatigue or sublimation. It hurts....


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