There was a tragedy in Tucson last week which involved the shooting deaths of six innocent people and the wounding of more than a dozen, including the congress woman, Gabrielle Giffords, who represents that area. I’m sure you’re aware of it; you’d have to live in a hole to not to be.
At this writing, this horrific event does not seem motivated as much by politics (e.g. the Oklahoma Bombing) as it is by the fact that the shooter was mentally unstable, such as those at Columbine. (I’m sure this is small comfort to the families of the victims.) The fact that I can list examples (and I could provide more) of various shootings “by name” – and that you can understand the references – is a sad, discerning comment about the level of violence in which we find ourselves. As for the cause of the event, finger-pointing began per schedule. Blame will be assessed, and as with a New Year’s resolution, promises will be made. For a brief moment, our awareness will be heightened and actions might be be taken. Unfortunately, also like those resolutions, these commitments will be abandoned in short order.
One positive outcome arising from this tragedy (if “positive” can be the label applied to anything that comes of it) is the heightened scrutiny on the tone of the political discourse during this fractious era. Only time will tell if it was a partial cause in the shooter’s break with humanity; but it cannot be a bad thing to examine.
I am loath to wish for the “good old days.” First of all, I don’t believe that the times when polio existed, racism was accepted, and children would “drop and cover” to practice for nuclear attacks; were “good old days.” Secondly, lamenting what has already passed is useless. Even if the past was as pristine and idyllic as some would like to remember, it is indeed just that: past. That said, pundits and pontificators proclaim that during those bygone days our elected representatives, even after vehement disagreement, would gather after debate to have a beer. They might have been at odds with each other on the congressional floor, yet they retained a sense of civility, even friendship, when day was done. This has, so it appears, been lost of late as both sides have become armed camps; shaking out positions, with nary a thought of middle ground.
Due to the Tucson event, the heat has been turned up on the uncivil rhetoric espoused by some politicians and even more media kingpins. “They” are apparently feeling the heat and the common reply is “We have to tone it down on both sides.” Personally, I am not sure that “both sides” share equal blame but I’ll leave that discussion to those who write about politics. Moreover, that misses the point: I am concerned that as long as the meme is “both sides are responsible,” neither side will take action. As long as we can point a finger at someone else, even if others are pointing at us, we have an “out,” an escape, a way to avoid the responsibility we each hold.
I am not just speaking of hate-speech nor of calls to incite violence, this concept also applies to a much more basic level of personal responsibility and change. Until we accept that “we” must “tone it down;” and “we” must change (on whatever level that is applicable), there is always a scapegoat and a way out. Being humans, in seek of comfort, we are quite likely to use it.
If change is truly our goal – whether it be our political discourse or our personal lives – we must understand that the only thing we can change is “us.” And the only part of “us” over which I have control is “me.”
You and I make up the “we.” I will watch more closely what I say, both to you and to myself. I hope you will too but I have very little control over that; for the only part of this green planet I do control is the few feet in which I exist, and at least I can make that a better place for all who come in contact with it.