In the aftermath of the tragedies in Arizona last week, President Obama came to Tucson and tried to heal a nation. Obviously troubled, and working hard to control his emotions, he painted a picture of the victims and put a much needed human face on each person. To him, these were not nameless statistics, but ordinary Americans doing ordinary things on a Saturday morning. He and First Lady Michelle struggled against tears when he spoke of the death of Christina Green, (the nine year-old girl so close in age to their own daughters). Members of the audience at the memorial service shared in these raw emotions. He spoke of the need to come together and soften our voices and about caring for one another. At a time when such healing words were necessary, his rhetorical skills were a balm for the wounds of a nation, one which has seen far too many similar sad scenes of mass gun violence by disturbed or delusional men with easy access to weapons of death. As he indicated, this is a question that we, as a country, must address rationally. He asked that we talk in a way that heals and not in a way that wounds. Sounding at times like a wounded parent or a pleading preacher he asked for America to reach for its better nature. Surely this cannot be too difficult for our country.
The President also called for greater civility and more civil discourse. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), in an op-ed in the Washington Post wrote about being at the memorial service and spoke about the correctness of the tone of voice from the President. Senator McCain even brought out the Biblical "Golden Rule" as a basis for balanced discussions amongst politicians. He urged treatment toward others to include empathy and mutual respect, even while acknowledging that he and the President have differences of opinion.
McCain indicated that he knew the President to be both a patriot and a legitimate leader and decried those who did not give him the respect due his office. He supported these words of healing and urged others to do the same. We do need more civic and political leaders to echo these remarks. On the other hand, Sarah Palin, in a message that was tone deaf to the pain of a nation, chose the day of mourning to appear in a slickly scripted taped video to address the criticism she had received for the targeted gun-sight map of Giffords and her congressional race in 2010. No one has said that she put the gun in the hands of a disturbed young man, but her words and actions during the campaign did coarsen the debate in the country at-large and at Tea Party gatherings. Unfortunately to many, her words were seen as angry, self-centered, defensive and ill-timed. Several elected officials in the Republican Party disassociated themselves from her remarks. Ultimately, she waited too long to speak out and sent the wrong message.
Please let me know what you think.