An Open Letter to Sarah, Michelle, and My American Sisters
by Mary Sojourner
I once shopped at a Safeway in my Tucson neighborhood. On January 8, 2011, a mentally ill young man — nearly a boy — opened fire on U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and a group of people outside that Safeway. Yellow police ribbons drape the parking lot I once parked in. Six people died there, including a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge, and one of Giffords’s staff. At least ten people were wounded.
Giffords has been able to respond to doctors even though she was shot in the head. As I write this on Valentines Day 2011, she is able to say a few words and sing simple songs. Much is not known about what inspired the killer. What is known is that he left messages on internet sites in which he expressed violent fears and viewpoints that seem to indicate he is seriously ill. What I also know is that he developed his plan — and acted — in a growing atmosphere of viciousness in America. If you doubt that, go to the CNN, Yahoo, Fox, and other major news media and read the comments following the ongoing reports on this story … and almost any story.
I don’t mention my connection with that Safeway lightly. We all shop somewhere. This attack could have occurred in front of your favorite supermarket. We are all in the crosshairs.
Knowing that, I call on Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, and all of you to join me in a small action against violence — that is, the casual use of violent images, violent language, violent metaphor. No more crosshairs. No more threatening ‘bitch slaps’. No more watching unmoved as our children and grand-children play with guns. There are hundreds of ways of violence — you may have your own.
I was walking in the BLM land that is my desert chapel the evening after I heard the news about the Tucson shootings. I walked on dark sand between sage and juniper, climbed a little basalt outcropping and sat facing clouds gone silver with sunset. I was surrounded by color — subtle, shifting, the blue sky and rose sunset becoming purple. I thought about Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama, about the media’s division of the country into Red states and Blue states. I looked up at the sky. Red. Blue. Purple. I knew what I would do.
I’d buy a spool of purple ribbon and cut it into lengths. I’d pin one length on my coat and carry the others in my pocket with a box of pins. When someone asked me why I was wearing a purple ribbon, I’d tell them that red and blue make purple and that women united can make a difference against viciousness. I hoped others would join me in this action.
Thirty-plus years ago, Marshall McLuhan wrote: “When people get close together, they get more and more savage, impatient with each other. The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.”
Thirty-five years ago, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan co-founded Community of Peace People, an organization dedicated to peaceful resolution of the violence shredding Ireland. It is time again for women to take a lead, and it is the same cyber-connections that can be put to vicious use that can help spread the message.
Sarah, Michelle, sisters, we can make a difference. Purple ribbon. Pins. Intention. These can be our tools. Not our weapon, our tools. Please join me. We are already all together in the crosshairs.
Mary Sojourner is the author of the novel Going Through Ghosts (University of Nevada Press, 2010) and the memoir She Bets Her Life (Seal Press, 2009), among her many books. She is a National Public Radio commentator, and is the author of numerous essays, columns, and op-eds for dozens of publications. She blogs at Psychology Today, and is a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision.