Daniel Hernandez, the 20-year old intern who had been on the job for five days in Representative Giffords’ office, is being credited with having saved her life for applying pressure to her head wound during the shooting massacre on Saturday. Often people dismiss interns for not knowing an answer when a constituent calls an elected official’s office or are quick to criticize the interns who may take a little longer to provide a customer service. But often these unpaid workers are doing tasks that make a world of difference, and Daniel certainly proved that on Saturday.
I think that Daniel’s efforts are worth highlighting because he could have very well be asked to show his papers in his homestate although he is a naturalized citizen. SB 1070 created an environment where someone who has witnessed a crime, like Daniel did, could be asked about his immigration status if the officer suspects that the person is in the country illegally. Again, we get back to the issue of what would make an officer suspect that someone is in Arizona illegally. But currently, the immigration provisions of SB 1070 have been blocked by a federal judge, yet they could go back into effect depending upon the actions of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Also worth noting is that Daniel Hernandez is openly gay. Hernandez is also a member of the City of Tuscon’s Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. Arizona’s two senators, McCain and Kyl, were against the repeal of the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. I will readily admit that I’m not too familiar with all of the arguments about why a military person could not serve successfully side by side with a gay colleague, but I would gladly have someone as brave and composed under pressure as Hernandez was in reacting and approaching the gunfire on Saturday to save the Congresswoman in my corner. The point is that Hernandez was composed, calm, and competent while under pressure, but yet his own Senators opposed a policy that would allow him to serve in the military openly just because of his sexual orientation.
Finally, Daniel Hernandez doesn’t think that he’s a hero, even though his acts were most heroic. At a time when our society rewards some Americans for doing nothing particularly exceptional (see the latest reality TV stars or even Bristol Palin for example), it’s refreshing to see a young person with a sense of humility and selflessness. We need more of this “help thy neighbor” spirit in these tough times, and Daniel exemplies this.