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Tragedy reminds lawmakers to maintain respect

It’s hard to believe the 107th General Assembly will begin its work this week in Nashville.
 
 Sen. Reginald Tate

by Sen. Reginald Tate

Special to the Tri-State Defender

It’s hard to believe the 107th General Assembly will begin its work this week in Nashville. I’m honored to be going back to the Capitol for a second term, and I sincerely thank you for supporting me and giving me the opportunity.

There will be a lot of new faces in the legislature this year – 22 of them, in fact, totaling the highest number of freshman lawmakers in 20 years. With these new members will come new ideas and new approaches in the legislature, and they rightfully deserve a place alongside those of returning lawmakers.

Amidst this atmosphere of both change and familiarity, we received sobering news from an Arizona event that should have been a model of how government officials are to serve their constituents. My thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her family, as well as with the injured and the families of the victims who didn’t make it. A child born on September 11, 2001; a congressional aide who was engaged to be married; a federal judge respected by his peers; and retirees who stayed active in their communities – all were at a grocery store early that morning to make their voices heard. Instead, they were silenced forever.

I have never felt threatened while conducting my legislative duties, but the shootings in Tucson sent a clear message that any of us could have found ourselves in a similar position. Among the most crucial aspects of our democracy are the freedoms to speak one’s mind and to hold one’s own beliefs, yet no violence that stems from such beliefs should be tolerated.

Political operatives from both sides have already attempted to portray this event as a result of the other’s policies or rhetoric. I do not believe that any particular message or act was a precursor to this senseless act of violence, but the extremist attitudes that too often infiltrate national discussions certainly contributed to the hostile environment that allowed this carnage to occur. As a result, Americans are dead, a Congresswoman is in the hospital, and our country is no closer to healing.

We will take our seats in the Tennessee legislature under the same cloud of uncertainty and fear that has settled over Arizona in the wake of this tragedy. It will be our job to dispel that cloud through respect, civility and moderation in everything we say and do, whether it is on the floor of the chamber or in a discussion among colleagues. There will be both new and familiar souls in the Capitol this week. It is our responsibility to welcome and be welcomed by them all.

(Sen. Reginald Tate represents portions of Memphis and Shelby County. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 615-741-2509 or 320 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0033.)

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