Keep Gabe Zimmerman in your heart for a while

Rick Robinson Author, Writ of Mandamus
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The endless drone of today’s news cycle has a way of desensitizing cable-television viewers to the events of the day. Stories are repeated with such frequency and on so many channels that the person sitting at home watching can become numb to the emotional connection underlying the accounts being relayed to them on the screen.

Whether it’s a major 9/11 seismic-type event that affects the entire country, or a single slaying that gets picked up as the cable-news murder de jour, continuous coverage of these events can eventually cause the shared eyes of America to glass over.

I sense that is already happening with viewers regarding coverage of last week’s assassination attempt upon Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The jab and parry of a blame game started literally before the bodies of the deceased had been removed from the parking lot pavement.

Like many current and former Capitol Hill staffers, I took the events which transpired in Arizona last weekend very personally. A Congressional staffer, Gabe Zimmerman, lost his life. He was one of us — a staffer. His death caused us staffers the same kind of grief that firefighters and police experience when one of their own is killed in the line of duty.

Pardon us if we’re not quite ready to move on to the ensuing national debate.

Upon learning that he was dying of cancer, Warren Zevon penned a song entitled “Keep Me in Your Heart.” Before we move along to the argument of what caused the tragic events in Tucson, some of us need a little more time to remember those who gave their lives and keep them in our hearts for a while.

For me personally, I needed to know a little more about Gabe Zimmerman.

Who was Gabe Zimmerman?

The news outlets have given us some basic information about Gabe Zimmerman, but they have only scratched the surface. Repeatedly, we’ve been told that Zimmerman was the 30-year-old Director of Community Outreach for Congresswoman Giffords and he was just recently engaged to be married.

Piecing together various print media reports reveals that Gabe Zimmerman was a remarkable young man full of the ideals that drive someone like him to work for a member of Congress.

Zimmerman got his start as a staffer doing constituent services. For those non-staffers reading this column, this means Gabe was the person who would have spoken to your grandma had she called Giffords’s office with problems about her Social Security check.

Good constituent service is the foundation of any Congressional office. The job is more than helping people navigate the federal bureaucracy. On a very basic level, the job involves making people believe that government does what it is supposed to do for them personally. Constituent service is a one-on-one delivery system for the entire federal government.

Doing constituent service was perfect for Gabe Zimmerman. He had a background in social work. More importantly, he had the good nature and natural empathy to do the job well.

If your grandma would have called Gabe Zimmerman about her Social Security check, he would have fretted until she got it.

Additionally, Gabe Zimmerman had no problem about being a front-line link between Congresswoman Giffords and many of her Tucson constituents. He organized the “Congress on Your Corner” event where he was killed.

By all accounts I have read, Gabe Zimmerman was truly loved by the constituents he served.

And, apparently, loving Gabe Zimmerman wasn’t a hard thing to do. “Nicest guy in the world” was how a high school classmate described him. A college acquaintance described him as passionate about life and said that being his friend was the only thing you could do upon meeting him. Giffords’s former campaign chairman said that Zimmerman was “as close to a purely good human being” as he had ever known.

A colleague in Giffords’s office said Zimmerman was “wise beyond his years and dedicated and loyal and determined.”

In today’s political world, almost any expertise can be purchased. Candidates pay consultants to run polls and design promotions. It used to be that volunteers got the campaign mail out the door via “Lick ’em, Stuff ’em and Stamp ’em” parties. But today, even campaign mail is pushed out the door by vendors.

There are things, however, which politicians cannot purchase in the political marketplace.

Dedication cannot be purchased.

Loyalty cannot be purchased.

Determination cannot be purchased.

Gabe Zimmerman was invaluable to his boss because he possessed these three traits. For living a life of dedication, loyalty and determination, let’s keep Gabe Zimmerman in our hearts for a while.

Post Script — It has come to my attention that Zimmerman’s alma matter, UC Santa Cruz, has established a scholarship fund in his honor. You can learn more about the fund by clicking here.

Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.