It was tragic when a mentally disturbed 22-year-old man shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Federal Judge John Roll, and 18 others on Jan. 8. Early reports indicated six dead and 14 injured. Unfortunately, the tragedy did not stop with the violence. Various groups immediately attempted to take advantage of the event for political gain, including fundraising.

Rep. Giffords was successfully moderate, meaning that through her service she had lost favor with some Democrats and some Republicans. Shortly after the violence, claims were made that the shootings were the result of political vitriol. I was not familiar with the word “vitriol,” but found out that it means “cruel and bitter criticism.”

As a citizen concerned about the economy and government spending, I fail to understand how criticism between political parties is going to help anything, especially if it is “cruel and bitter.” I have found over the years that most people are good and worthy of respect. Sometimes really nice people have views that I do not agree with. So I feel comfortable being in disagreement with their views and still considering them to be nice people. In other words, I like to stick with the issues and not make it a personal battle.

A term used in the U.S. Congress is “across the aisle.” This means that Republicans sit on one side of the room and Democrats sit on the other side, and tend to avoid each other. If Republicans choose to work with the Democrats, it is said that they have moved “across the aisle.”

I think that it is time to change the seating in Congress. We need to distribute representatives from both parties evenly across the room. If a representative criticizes another representative, then their seating should be changed immediately to be next to each other. After all, our representatives need to focus on representing us for the good of the country. Party affiliation and personal attacks don’t belong on the priority list. Sharing space might help them get along just a little bit better.

A good share of the blame belongs to some of the media. In their quest to entertain, they emphasize any kind of political conflict that they can find. They are like the ring of kids that egg on a couple of their classmates to fight because the value of the entertainment outweighs the negative consequences of the fight. These media personalities may mention the issues, but focus on personalities and personal attacks. I do not listen to this kind of reporting, but many do. Those that listen to the personal attacks also deserve a good share of the blame.

I do not consider Republicans or Democrats, or those from any other political party, to be my enemy. Our representatives face the challenge of deciding how much government is going to take on. I favor keeping government as small as possible, which means minimizing laws and controls and minimizing spending.

However, I acknowledge that some rely on the government more than I do, and some give-and-take is necessary. There will never be a perfect performance by Congress, but there can be a solid performance if all work together and focus on results.

It is impossible to prevent all unstable people from causing violence and harm. However, the political players in this country can choose to try to get along – to be American citizens first, and political party members second. We need our representatives to focus on solving the issues that face us, and not allowing anger and personal attacks to distract.

Brad Ross is an engineer who lives in Los Olivos. Please write to princentliv@gmail.com to share principles that affect your life, or to provide feedback.