What can anyone say about the events in Arizona this weekend? An assassination attempt of a public official is horrific, the senseless deaths of innocent bystanders even worse. And no loss is more heartbreaking than the death of nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
In a bizarre twist of fate, Christina came into this world on September 11th, 2001. As her father told CNN, she was born in tragedy and ended in tragedy, but the years in between were priceless.
There is no "lesson to be learned" great enough to cushion these losses, but the country will be taking a hard look at itself and trying to find some consolation. If we learn nothing, than the tragedy is just that, and no more.
On 9/11/01, we were forced to face incomprehensible mass murder. The country began a journey of fear and discovery of itself. We started debating what "safe" means, who could best provide security, and what we were willing to do (wage wars) or give up (some freedoms) to get it.
Massive war costs that contribute to our deficit problems; untold human costs to our troops; the relatively minor inconveniences we all face at the airport today... all of these and more are the continuing remnants of that larger debate.
During the past decade, the political divides and arguments about what the country is all about and what paths we should take, grew more aggressive, angry, and hate-filled. What's now accepted as "discourse" has devolved horribly to fall below the least common denominator.
We regularly threaten and demean our leaders, all the way up to our presidents. While I believe that the vitriol directed at President Obama is unwarranted, shocking, and unbelievably dangerous, there were certainly large amounts of angry rhetoric thrown at President George W. Bush as well.
Of course we cannot point to the words of any one demagogue, network, or pundit and say that they drove the actions of this particular madman. But let's not kid ourselves: The verbal violence leveled at leaders who, for the most part, do believe what they're doing is best for the country, was bound to push some unbalanced people to the mistaken belief that physical violence was not only condoned, but encouraged.
On Sunday, 1/09/11, the country seemed to be in shock from the previous day's events. But I can only hope that the day marked the beginning of a new way of dealing with each other.
Perhaps a sad, scary era of anger will end now. Where 9/11/01 began an overheated debate about how best to be safe and secure, let's pray that 1/9/11 starts a conversation about how to be whole.
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