The memorial service in Arizona was in many ways representative of our noisy, increasingly information, religious and decent country. I didn't care for the raucous-like atmosphere. The Native American chief went on to long and sounded like he had swallowed "Political Correctness for Dummies." But that is minor, and ultimately irrelevant.
What mattered? In time of crisis, public figures return to Scripture. Janet Napolitano read from the Old Testament, Eric Holder from the New Testament. I was entirely appropriate, and a reminder that in the age of pop psychology and New Age lingo, nothing fills the heart and the soul like Scripture.
As for the president, I was immediately struck by how old and gray he looks. He did not smirk and play to the crowd as Bill Clinton surely would have done. His sober demeanor lessened the cringe-sensation when the assembled hooted and cheered.
As for the president's speech, it was one of his better moments because it avoided politics. Now he did stray into campaign shouting mode when he said "I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I can tell you this - she knows we're here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey." And similarly when he celebrated the citizen heroes of the day, he likewise did the staccato-shout bit. Still, it was in celebration of others, not him.
As for the substance of the speech, this was the most meaningful passage:
You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations - to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized - at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do - it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind. So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
It was not quite a rebuke to his liberal supporters, but it was close. He was telling them and everyone that the entire process of casting blame for a lunatic's crime is foolhardy and simply wrong. He deserves credit for that.
I will have more later. But one can't help recognize the contrast between the adult voices (the cabinet officials, the college president and the president) and a babble of immature wolves, baying at the moon and spinning untruths to propel their own agenda. As Obama reminded the country that "what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together." Couldn't have said it better myself
| January 11, 2011; 9:30 PM ET
Categories: Arizona shooting
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