Thursday, January 13, 2011

Well Done, Mr. President

It was just what we needed in the wake of the horrific Tucson shooting: An uplifting speech by the president which highlighted the bravery and heroism of the people during that terrible moment on Saturday morning.

Husbands who threw their bodies on top of their wives to try to shield them from gunfire. A congressional aide who darted through the lethal chaos to attend to wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and apply pressure to her wounds. The people who wrestled the shooter to the ground and wrangled his ammo out of his hands, risking their own lives.

We, collectively, were uplifted by the life stories of those who were killed, the woman who volunteered at her church, the high school sweethearts who’d reunited, the young Congressional staffer who had big ideas of how government could help people. We learned that Giffords had opened her eyes for the very first time since being shot. And then there was the 9-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Green whose story President Obama told in such a tastefully poignant fashion that it brought me to tears.

And the president took pains to say that we shouldn’t blame political rhetoric for the actions of a disturbed man bent on violence. Instead of blaming and finger pointing, the president called upon us to lift up one another by communicating our political differences in civil terms and mold ourselves into the kind of nation that the young, idealistic Christina, born on 9/11/01, would have wanted to see in the country of which she was so proud: “She saw all of this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism of vitriol that we adults all too often take for granted. I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.” When he threw in the line about how he imagined that Christina was “jumping in rain puddles” in heaven, the word that came to my mind: “Beautiful.”

It was a healing speech full of hope -- not anger, not partisanship, not blaming. It was full of tales that remind us that there are many more people in the world who are good and generous and brave and loving and hopeful even in the face of evil. And that’s what we needed to hear, at least that’s what I needed to hear.

Then this morning while watching Morning Joe, I heard that Colorado Senator Mark Udall is urging that during the January 25 State of the Union speech in the House chambers that the members from the Republican and Democratic parties sit amidst and next to one another as opposed to segregated on opposite sides of the room.

“Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen united as a country,” Udall said in a press statement. “. . . Perhaps by sitting with each other for one night we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good.”

That, I think, is a brilliant idea would embody the notion that we are all Americans, no matter our views on tax policy, education reform and keeping troops in Afghanistan.

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