I keep wondering why the grief I feel about the Tucson tragedy is hitting me at such a deep place. I remember being aghast at the Oklahoma bombing, the Columbine shootings, the rampage at Virginia Tech, and certainly the unreality of September 11.
I think it is because this year has started with so many difficulties; floods in Australia, mudslides in Brazil, terrible weather almost everywhere, dead birds dropping from the sky, dead fish washing up on shore.
The immune system of the earth is heaving a sigh, the people and animals of the planet are in jeopardy. The shooting spree in Arizona is yet another kick in the gut. I know we need to think about each other and what really makes a difference. This is a good article. It is about all of us staying alert and not letting this become just another memory in a few weeks. It’s about you, it’s about me, and it’s about time!
Obama Re-introduces the Human Element to the Giffords Tradegy
By Sam Stein
WASHINGTON — It is when there is a human element to his presidency that Barack Obama tends to stand the tallest. And on Wednesday evening, as he spoke to 14,000-plus at a memorial service at the University of Arizona, there was, if nothing else, an emotional honesty to what he had to say.
To a nation looking for clarity, Obama didn’t pretend to have all the answers. There is, he noted, a tendency to demand “order” from “chaos,” to try and “make sense out of that which seems senseless.” Life doesn’t always comply.
To a political culture looking for scapegoats, he asked for maturity. A lack of civility hadn’t caused the shooting of 20 in Tucson, nor would it provide relief. “What we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other,” said Obama. “That we cannot do. That we cannot do.”
And for a community mourning, the president assumed only the role of fellow griever, trying to draw threads of optimism from the wreckage. “If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Obama declared, in a speech that his own aides insisted was one of his best.
As he turned his address for the first, then the second, and finally a third time to the passing of nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, it was impossible not to think of the president as a father, gripped by doubt as to whether he could respond to a similar tragedy. At one point he paused to swallow tears — his wife, Michelle, openly crying in her front row seat — before calling out for an elevated sense of purpose.
“I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it,” he said. “All of us — we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”
Challenging an audience to live up to a child’s expectation would seem noteworthy only for the low setting of the bar. But in the past few days, the conversation surrounding the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) — who, Obama announced, had opened her eyes shortly before his speech — had moved from shock and grief to something far more callous.
Even as the president spoke, a debate waged among Twitter and cable pundits as to whether the tone of the memorial was somehow off-putting. Earlier that morning, Sarah Palin had accused the media of “blood libel” for casting her in the role of cheerleader for the extremists.
It was, as if, the actual shootings had become secondary players — as if the human element had been lost in a political drama.
“I believe we can be better,” Obama said, in a line that seemed to mean more for those watching on TV then those in the stadium. “Those who died here, those who saved lives here — they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”
My response to Sam’s article.
Obama is showing high leadership and keen understanding of the complexities of the human condition. We are being prodded to rethink priorities and be courageous enough to critically examine old beliefs as we move forward in the spirit of caring and altruism. He offers us a vision of a better way to look at the world. Conventional thinking is not enough, as anthropologist Gregory Bateson warned when he stated “Those theories of man which start from his most anamalistic and maladaptive psychology turn out to be improbable first premises from which to approach the psalmist’s question “Lord, what is man?” Faulty epistimology. And this narrowness led up to a failure to discern the pattern which connects.
In his speech, Obama requests that we look beyond the familiar, the predictable, and take the long view of what connects us as a species in the positive sense rather than look at the differences and flaws. Now, it is up to all of us to keep the dialogue going!