The memorial event in Tucson last week was not especially memorable -- except for the rowdy cheering and chummy hugging and the fact that President Obama himself gave a lengthy speech that was lavishly praised by nearly everyone.
Not by me.
While it was touching to limn the lives of the victims, one by one, the president did not discuss the overriding problems that are raising the level of violence and anger in our country, and lowering the threshold of tolerance and restraint: Economic distress, unemployment, homelessness, poor education, insufficient health care, lack of social cohesion, lack of credible leadership... and, of course, the easy availability of firearms to people who are irascible, irrational, or just crazy.
These may not be appropriate issues to raise at a memorial service, but what follows, is what I believe President Obama should have said. It is not too late for him to say this in his State of the Union address!
My friends, my fellow Americans --
Our nation is going through a difficult time. We are all aware of it, and nearly every one of us is feeling in some way the debilitating effects.
It is a dangerous time, because despair and disillusionment can lead to desperation, and desperate, irrational deeds.
We must not succumb to a sense of hopelessness, bitterness, anger and revenge. We must, more than ever in this critical time, build a sense of unity and resolve. We must demand justice and righteousness; we must act with fairness and compassion.
We must return to a tolerant and peaceful way of life -- less adversarial and less confrontational.
We must nurture and protect what is basic to our happiness and well-being, and eschew what is merely superficial and superfluous.
We must respect and help ourselves, and we must respect and help others.
We must insist on civility and honesty in our government, in our institutions, and in our personal lives.
We must ensure that our tremendous diversity becomes a source of energy and inspiration, and not a force that divides and weakens us.
Lastly, we must admit our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and our failures, our good decisions and our bad ones. We must stop trying to redesign the world and begin to redesign our nation -- into a land of peace and plenitude and promise for all.
May we have the wisdom and the will to begin now.