- Jeff MacGregor
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One word here will be one word too many. Two hundred thousand more won't be enough.
I'd let this space stand empty today if I could, and send only the message of no message, of a long blank page quiet as stone. I'd ask that its stillness honor the lost.
As a writer in America, I spend my time wondering what it means to be an American. I wonder what it means to live inside all the contradictions of our freedom and violence, our wealth and poverty, our opportunity and opportunism, bravery and cowardice, privilege and misery and charity and hate and love and heroism and madness. Often enough, I can make no sense of it. I can make no sense of who we are or what we mean to be.
So I could make no sense of America on Saturday morning when all those things in opposition came home to roost on Oracle Road in Tucson, Arizona.
Nor will any sense be made of it before, during or after the big championship game Monday night up at Glendale, in that great loud theater of our national distraction. I expect a memorial moment of silence there, of course. As part of our deeper retreat into permanent nonsense, I also expect record television ratings -- earned for the comforts of the stylized violence and the soothing familiarity of those noises and colors.
Thus Arizona finds itself again at the crossroads of America's fears and excesses and its addiction to spectacle. Arizona as punch line. Arizona as editorial cartoon. Arizona heartbroken, standing in again as America writ small.
By the time most of you read this, more will be known about the circumstances of Saturday's shooting, about the order of events and about the sad mechanics of that day and the lives of the victims and the delusions of that young man with the gun. But neither meaning nor reason can ever be made of what he did or why. A trial will be held and a sentence imposed and a history written, but an absolute truth will always elude us.
Watching the coverage of a U.S. congresswoman shot, of attempted political murder in broad American daylight, I felt for the first time in more than 40 years, since the last rattle of the late 1960s, that something bleak and uncontrollable had been set loose again in America, and that a terrible anger is now general everywhere.
(Even the morning of September 11 brought a different kind of dread, of something straightforward and external, of an enemy. Of something we could safely hate and then fight to destroy. This is different, and the fear of it is different. Because this is the house divided. Like Oklahoma City, this is us, terrorizing ourselves. Maybe this is what it means to be an American as we light the fuse of the 21st century.)
So today we send our sympathies and our frights west and north and south and east, send our hopes and well wishes to Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other 13 wounded, send our condolences and tears to those half a dozen dead.
And understand that whatever she was meant for, she was not meant for this.
She saw people and governments in the way that only a child can, as instruments of optimism and the common good. And we can all hope that a billionaire one day endows a Christina-Taylor Green Institute for the Improvement of American Politics.
But until then, whatever your party and whatever motives you assign to her killer, let her death remind us of the high price of our ideologies. Her life unbegun, let her death reveal the cost of our comic book politics and our bullying, overheated rhetoric.
Then let her death restore us.
Let her death be the sacrifice that heals us all.
Remember her in your thoughts and devotions and let her loss remind us of what is best in us, and what is best in America.
Because who knows what Christina-Taylor Green might have become.
And who knows what will one day become of us.
Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter.com feed @MacGregorESPN.
I could make no sense of America on Saturday morning. Thus Arizona finds itself again at the crossroads of America's fears and excesses and its addiction to spectacle.