Heroines come in all shapes, sizes…and political parties

Pamela Varkony Contributor
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No capes, crowns, or busty body suits are involved in the most recent sightings of female superheroes. And despite the lack of high-tech special effects, sex scenes, or explosions, the recounting of their daring exploits have drawn thousands of viewers and numerous words of praise.

We’re not talking about Wonder Woman, Power Girl, or Elektra. If you passed our recent heroines on the street, you likely wouldn’t recognize them; their disguises, as two middle-aged women, are so good that you’d probably pass them by. But when confronted with danger, these two average women needed no telephone booth to transform themselves into action figures willing to put their own lives at risk to save others.

Patricia Maisch’s moment of decision came amidst the confusion and horror that ensued as Jared Loughner mowed down twenty people in a crowd gathered to meet Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. As two men tried to stop Loughner by tackling him and hitting him with a chair, 61-year-old Patricia Maisch, in the midst of all the carnage — a woman next to her in line had already been shot — found the courage and presence of mind to grab the fresh ammunition magazine that Loughner was trying to load.

I don’t know how often they say this in Tucson, but that’s chutzpah.

A few weeks earlier, in mid-December, Ginger Littleton, along with other members of the Panama City, Florida, school board, was confronted at a meeting by a rambling, ranting Clay Duke, wildly waving a gun in the air. Seemingly interested in only the male members of the board, Duke allowed Littleton and the audience to leave the room. But Littleton returned to try to help her colleagues. Coming up behind the deranged man she swung her purse at the gun. Unlike Maisch, who helped to prevent Loughner from reloading, Littleton was not successful in disarming Duke. But to watch the video of her deliberately putting herself in harm’s way, after she had safely escaped, is to watch a real-time, real-life profile in courage.

When asked about the choice she made, she told George Stephanopoulos, “I could either walk away thinking something bad was going to happen and try to live with myself or I could try to do something to divert and delay. My bag was what I had.”

Note to self: Never again be embarrassed or make excuses for carrying a big, heavy purse.

These two ordinary women each chose to commit an extraordinary act of bravery. Littleton has returned to her comfortable anonymity. Before doing so she sold the famous purse on eBay for $13,100, donating the proceeds to a children’s charity.

Maisch is having no such charitable feelings toward the Republican Party. During an interview on Fox News, with anchor Shep Smith, Patricia Maisch made it clear who she believes is partly responsible for what happened in that shopping center parking lot.

“…the extreme right, reporters, radio and TV have added to this problem, and I’m just hoping that that will change because of this. That’s my hope, is that the Republicans will stop naming bills in very hateful things like the “job-killing” whatever the rest of that bill is. I think they’ve just gone over the top. I think the extreme right has gone too far.”

To use a favorite Capital Hill expression, with all due respect, I see Jared Loughner as a mentally unstable “lone wolf” with a persecution complex, who was determined to have his fifteen minutes of fame.

Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, genders…and political affiliations. The fact that I disagree, strongly, with Ms. Maisch’s conclusion about what drove Loughner to go on a murdering spree in that shopping center parking lot, and that I am deeply disappointed that she would use such a tragedy to promote her own political agenda, does not diminish my admiration for her act of courage.

Pamela Varkony is a writer, commentator, and political observer. Her advocacy for women’s empowerment has crossed four continents including two fact-finding missions to Afghanistan. Her blog is PamelaVarkony.com.