When Arizona state senate president Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) convened the new session of the state legislature yesterday, he declared: "There is no place for hate in our homes and outside our home."
In light of President Obama's trip to Tucson tomorrow to address mourning residents at the University of Arizona in a White House announced "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America" event, many Arizonans are wondering if Pearce will be on hand to usher in a new era of civility in the state.
A month ago, Pearce, one of the main architects and proponents of the SB 1070 anti-immigration law in Arizona, infamously joked at a Judicial Watch panel: "I can tell you that the best thing about 1070 is that Obama may not be visiting Arizona because we actually require papers now."
The Think Progress website reminded readers of an earlier incident last fall when Pearce accused President Obama of waging "jihad" against the United States. Reported in the Arizona Republic, Pearce said at an award's ceremony at the David Horowitz Freedom Center:
"When you talk about jihad, that is exactly what Obama has against America, specifically the state of Arizona. Think about it. This is the first time in the history of the United States that a sitting President has sided with a foreign government to sue the citizens of its country. For defending our laws? For defending and protecting the citizens of the state of Arizona? It's outrageous and it's impeachable."
Across the nation, religious and political leaders have called for a new era of discourse in the political arena. Writing in the Huffington Post, Christian leader Jim Wallis wrote:
As many have already said, we must honor this tragic event and Gabby's national service by reflecting deeply on how we speak to and about one another, and how we create environments that help peace grow, or allow violence and hatred to enter. Many of us who would never consider violence of the fist have been guilty of violence in our hearts and with our tongues. We need to be able to relate to others with whom we disagree on important issues without calling them evil. The words we say fall upon the balanced and unbalanced, stable and unstable, the well-grounded and the unhinged, alike.
With six dead in Arizona from the Tucson shooting, and the lives of Rep. Gabby Giffords and many others still in critical condition, will Arizona's state leaders mark the end of a "place for hate in our homes and outside our home"?
As the Obamas join mourning Arizonans at the McKale Center on Wednesday evening, will Pearce and Gov. Jan Brewer greet them in a new era of reconciliation and civil discussion?