Blog, Thoughts

The Shameless Politics of Tragedy

I have been botheredthis week as Iperused news articles,Twitter, and Facebooktowitness theblatant politicizing of the tragic shooting in Arizona. On Tuesday,I reada piece about the mental and emotional instability of the shooter; as the investigation has unfolded, we have discovered more and more how the young manwas not motivated in any way by political discourse. The true pulse of the American political conversation cannot be found as we discover more about shooter’s motivation, but is easily diagnosed in the immediate finger-pointing among pundits that ensued after last Saturday’s events. As we learn more about Jared Loughner, I fear we will also be shocked to discover how many people in the community understood how disturbed the young man was, but didn’t want to be bothered, threatened, or hassled by bringing attention to the problem. More and more, we are becoming a culture where the type of self-isolationhe submitted himself to is easier to achieve. Jared Loughner is the guilty party,but I think we need to take a closer look at our fragmented sense of community, the indifference toward each-other that it breeds, and how starkly it is reflected in our politics. I don’t place a whole lot of value in the political arena, so my hopes were nothigh for the speeches planned at last night’s televised memorial. When President Obama took the podium though,I found several of the lines from his speech profoundly true to the situation:

In referenceto the political finger pointingObama said, “None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.“He continued,”The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives — to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers andparents,And if… their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.“If you missed the President’s address you can catch it here:

Of the many lessons wecan learn from this horrible event, one of the most insightful might be thatit shouldn’t take a tragedy to bring us together. We can find better reasons for solidarity and togetherness. Community forms by working for each other, seeing beyond our political, religious and social differences and committing ourselves to the discipline of compassion toward our immediate neighbors. Politics were certainly not to blame for this tragedy, but our politicians assuredly demonstrated this week, in theaftermathof the shooting,how divisive and shamelessourdiscourse has become.

One thought on “The Shameless Politics of Tragedy

  1. I agree, Matt. I didn’t listen to Obama’s address (although I plan to visit the link you shared) but I did hear some of the sound bites. One that stood out to me was something like:

    “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.”

    So will the public discourse change as a result of a tragedy like this and some top-down decision to be more agreeable as we disagree? Maybe.

    But I think it’s more likely to change as individual citizens, neighbors, family members, co-workers, and all of us take responsibility for how we treat one another.

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