Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Misplaced Reality of Arizona’s Compassion

“Leave the speaking for those who have ‘Voices of Patience and Wisdom’ to say something meaningful” … so says, Jeff Jacoby, conservative columnist for the Boston Globe.

He was writing of President Obama’s address at Tucson’s memorial in honor of Arizona’s shooting victims, and of John Greene’s remarks concerning the loss of his 9-year-old daughter, Christina.

I agree the President’s speech was heartfelt and eloquent. The President said, let’s not "use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other”; certainly, we should not! Who could possibly disagree with Jeff Jacoby, “Not even the president, however, could match the goodness, dignity, and large-heartedness of John Greene.” Christina’s dad, even in his anguish, where many would have the inclination to blame someone or something, refused “to pin his daughter's murder on the ‘climate of hate’ and ‘vitriolic rhetoric’ so many others were eager to indict.” Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times, contradictorily, “It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.”

At first thought, Jeff Jacoby might seem to make sense, yet disappointingly, he does not recognize that beneath his words lies the real meaning: he and those who agree with him want to keep things as they are. That way of thinking simply ignores the facts that America does have a problem of providing adequate mental healthcare for the mentally ill; that America does have a problem with decency, not only in political discourse but on our airways and in everyday American life; that America does have a problem with violence, and with proliferation and lethality of guns. Although, as our President said, “none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack” or have “any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired,” nevertheless, these facts do have everything to do with America’s “national climate,” that collectively, in one way or another, contributes to these tragedies and to so much of America’s violence.

John Green and others have said, “We don't need any more restrictions on our society”; new laws and limitations cannot prevent every horror. Many endorse John Greene’s belief that if we want to live "in a country like the United States, where we are more free than anywhere else, we are subject to things like this happening."

Certainly, Americans need to emulate the goodness and compassion of the John Greene’s of this world, but it must be without ignorance or naiveté. For where is America’s reasoning in the mantra, “Freedom comes with a price”? Don’t they understand the human price of bloodletting in war means in essence giving up all of one’s freedom forever? Don’t they understand that they accept it in order to protect America from terrorism, tyranny, and violence? Doesn’t it beg the question, shouldn’t the price of freedom include giving up some freedom in order to protect Americans from the terrorism of an assassin and bloodletting right here at home.

So beyond the rhetoric of national sorrow we experience with every new American tragedy, particularly with mass violence as exemplified in Arizona, will America accept the reality of America’s moral weaknesses and take meaningful action against those weaknesses? Or, will America excuse and dismiss those weaknesses, as they apparently have in Arizona, “as the mere act of a deranged young man, and go on as before”?