Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, little Christina-Taylor Green and others at a Tucson Safeway in January, there was a nationwide call for civil discourse. President Obama, the First Lady, and others came to Tucson to help us heal.
Ron Barber, one of Giffords’ aides, spearheaded local efforts to promote civility and humane medical treatment for the mentally ill. Memorials and civil discourse projects began popping up. The Fund for Civility, Respect, and Understanding was established in Tucson. The National Center for Civil Discourse was established in Tucson. A star-studded concert for “Civility, Respect & Understanding” brought many Tucsonans together to celebrate life and mutual understanding.
It seemed as if as a community we were taking President Obama’s words to heart when he invoked the memory of little Christina and said, “I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it to be.”
That memorial event in January and the civility concert in March seem so long ago. Our community which was pulling together just a few short weeks ago is now being torn apart by violent hate speech, bullying, and mob action by the supporters of the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). These are dark days for our community when people with moderate voices are not allowed to speak or are afraid to attend public meetings– forcing increased security.
With the mob takeover of last week’s TUSD board meeting; the takeover of a University of Arizona economics class taught by School Board President Dr. Mark Stegeman; threats from Unidos that protests at yesterday’s TUSD board meeting would surpass the previous week’s protest; the public and online bullying of anyone who dares to have a different opinion from the MAS supporters; and the relentless smear campaign against Dr. Stegeman and TUSD Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone on the the pages of the Tucson Citizen, on facebook, and in a e-mail blasts– our community has sunk to a new low.
This spring civil rights activist and Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West gave a lecture to a packed house on the UA campus. Dr. West challenged the audience in the epicenter of hate (AKA Arizona– thanks to the Arizona Legislature) to practice radical love. He challenged us to look beyond race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender and work together against the real enemy of the people– the corporatists who control the wealth of our country and who want to control our government.
The vote on the reorganization of Ethnic Studies didn’t happen at yesterday’s TUSD board meeting, although public comment was heard. The school board will hold a public forum on the proposed plan and vote after that.
In the meantime, I challenge everyone— MAS supporters, MAS detractors, and questioning moderates who support ethnic studies but want transparency and true civil discourse on this important issue– to practice radical love and respect for each other. This is the way to protect democracy and free speech. All voices should be heard at the public forum– not just those who shout the loudest.