Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Flowers They Bring

Like most Americans, I reacted to the shootings in Tucson with horror and sadness. I've had some other reactions, as well. I've experienced anger at the media for rushing to politicize the tragedy. I've felt frustrated by our society's failure to control guns, particularly the sale of guns to mentally ill individuals. I've worried about how we can safeguard the public from the very small percentage of those mentally ill people who might act out violently. And I've also been thinking about flowers.

At the Capitol and in Tucson, well-wishers left flowers outside the offices of Gabrielle Giffords, the Congresswoman who was viciously gunned down last Saturday. The scenes reminded me of similar ones in the wake of past tragedies, like the thousands upon thousands of bouquets left at Kensington and Buckingham Palaces after Princess Diana's death. I also thought of the poignant roadside memorials for young people killed in auto accidents, usually marked with flowers as well as childhood memorabilia.

I find such communal outpourings moving. The delicate blooms suggest the beauty and fragility of life. And at times such as these, when I question the very nature of the society I live in, they give me hope that most people are motivated by love rather than hate.


  1. Every psychologist of value had/has their own idea of what motivates people. So often I hear that it is greed. Buddhists say that it is the need to relieve suffering. I think in this case it may have been the result of intolerance, taken by an unstable and immature man to the extreme. The other day I heard a neighbor say, "the "blank" haven't moved to Norway. It is too cold for them. I shuttered, thinking of Hitler's comments (and actions) about the Jews. I told the neighbor I would respond to his statement when we would have breakfast the next morning, but we never got to it (that discussion, not the breakfast). Maybe the love you are talking about and the hope for tolerance I'm talking about are friends.

  2. It always amazes us Europeans to see how many Americans carry guns. We do not have that gun culture, though we do have crime too, of course. What is scary is the spiral it provokes. I read an article yesterday in a waiting room, about the number of American women who carry guns ostensibly. Out of fear.
    Remember: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself? " In that case let us all ban weapons, and carry.... flowers instead!
    Wow, doesn't this sound terribly outdated?
    (and BTW, everyday racism scares me even more than guns, and we have that kind here to, believe me)