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A responsible democracy in America - Martha Carr

U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63, was one of six people who have died as a result of the recent shooting at a Tucson, Ariz., Safeway grocery store. Fourteen others were wounded.

Roll had stopped by to shake U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' hand at her down-home meet-and-greet for constituents. Roll lived nearby and was said to have read about the scheduled appearance. Giffords, 40, was critically injured in the melee and so far is expected to survive the close-range bullet to her head.

Roll was appointed to the federal bench by the first President George Bush and Giffords was a newly reelected Democrat, who won the Arizona 8th district by a slim margin of one percent against her conservative opponent.

The two public servants were from two different political parties, but were recognized for sharing a common ideal that compromise in America can often result in great works. They were both known for an easy grasp of the informative details in any situation and an ability to be fair while trying to listen to a good argument, as if their minds could be changed. It's what the rest of us hope for in public servants.

It's unfortunate we can't say that about so many other politicians on the American landscape today, both from the left and the right. The heated insults without substance have been flying for awhile, till it began to be seen as normal and those with any kind of facts or figures about some actual policy were getting lost in the shuffle.

Many are holding up the former governor turned reality star, Sarah Palin, as the prime contributor of mindless rants, particularly after she said, "Don't retreat, reload," and had depictions of crosshairs on a map of the United States, including Giffords' district, which should be seen as an anti-American sentiment, and anger responsible gun owners everywhere. But Palin didn't pull the trigger and isn't responsible for a madman's act.

At most, Palin is once again responsible for poor judgment and inflammatory statements that held no place for compromise, deliberation or the possibility of getting any work done.

But enough already with paying any attention to Palin and her entire ilk, regardless of their self-important agenda. The rest of us can turn away from the blather and focus instead on honoring what Roll and Giffords and so many others have dedicated their lives to in America, and stop letting ourselves be goaded into screaming at each other by repeated innuendo.

Instead, we can approach town hall meetings with some common sense and believe that a solution is possible, and we can be a part of it. Not a loud, overblown obstacle.

Democracy in America is a 235-year-old institution that still requires a daily accounting of our own actions for the sake of the preservation of the whole.

"A house divided against itself can not stand," said Abraham Lincoln in 1858 in Springfield, Ill. He observed that a nation has to stand as one behind any important thought, or the Union cannot last. We can argue and disagree, but at the end of the day when it comes to some fundamental basics, we have to get the majority to agree and head in that direction.

In that same moment of history, there was General Robert E. Lee who was so well respected by his troops that when he asked them to lay down their arms, they did so as a tribute to him. He wanted to see the blossom of democracy survive and grow into maturity, and he wasn't willing to slaughter anymore people just to be able to say he was right. In that one act, he made evident why Lincoln tried to get him to lead the Northern troops.

We all knew that if the heated political rhetoric was kept up that someone was going to get hurt, but if we are going to hold Palin or any other talking head responsible, then we also have to say we had a hand in the whole mess as well. We are the ones who keep tuning in and we are the ones who don't spend enough time listening to the calmer voices, such as the Giffords who are less flashy and, therefore, don't have as much dramatic appeal.

We are also the ones who can change things today by turning off the TV and asking our neighbors for ideas on how to solve common issues.

So, let's add one more New Year's resolution and let's all look to the politicians who believe in the best in each of us rather than those who are jeering at any other Americans.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Her latest book is the memoir, "A Place to Call Home." Free eBook at www.MarthaRandolphCarr.com. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.