President Barack Obama mourned victims of the Tucson…urged Americans not to let a political debate over the tragedy be used as “one more occasion to turn on one another.”
It has been amazing to me to see how this tragedy has been used for political pandering. There has been a really serious debate about whether or not the violent nature of political rhetoric played a role in this violent occurrence. A couple of days ago on NPR, I heard people debating about who’s political speeches are more violent: conservatives or liberals? What’s amazing is that this debate seems to be completely uninformed by Loughner’s actual life.
Loughner did not attack because he was a radical liberal or a radical conservative. He attacked because he believed the current government was unconstitutional and because “If words have no meaning, then what is government?” Certainly, his sanity is in question, but what is interesting is that there is a parallel between what seemed to motivate Loughner’s actions and what is motivating the subsequent political debates: political difference.
Differing political views was the occasion for Loughner to perform his actions. Differing political views is the occasion for conservatives and liberals to argue about who’s rhetoric is more destructive. Perhaps, in some sense, the Tucson tragedy is perpetuated when we continue to demonize one another.
Political views are, essentially, normative views about the structuring of society. What is tragic, then, is that while these individuals are pursuing their respective utopias they engage in actions that are antithetical to the very world they seek to create. Conservatives want a good world. Liberals want a good world. Loughner (presumably) wanted a good world. What is tragic (and paradoxical) is that each of these individuals, through their demonizing and hatred, make the world a crappier place in their attempt to make it a better place. Christians do this too. We have an ideal for the world supposedly founded on God’s love, yet we hate and alienate those we should be seeking to love and welcome. This is indeed a tragedy.
I am a part of this tragedy too. Perhaps a remedy for the demonizing of others is to see the plank in my own eye, i.e., to see that the same demon that possesses “them” possesses me. This post, then, is meant to be an effort to exorcise that demon and to begin the delicate and loving process of removing the speck from my brothers’ and sisters’ eye.
Perhaps Obama’s speech can be a part of that process. He says,
“‘…we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do,’ Obama said, the killings should make Americans ask themselves ‘Have we shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to people in our lives?'”
This, for sure, is a Jesus question. By that, I mean that it is a question that takes us one step closer to asking the types of questions that will usher in the kingdom of heaven. Since Jesus’ Divine ideal happens to be couched in a political metaphor, we find another parallel:
My life as one who seeks to collaborate with God in the ushering in of the kingdom of heaven is to trade out the hateful politics of figure pointing for the kingdom of love, “kindness and generosity and compassion.”
Obama’s question is, I think, an important step in ending the Tucson tragedy.