That was the question President Obama posed to the nation last night during a speech at the memorial for victims of Saturday’s attack in Tucson. I think that is something a lot of us have been asking ourselves, and for some it’s taken the form of pointing fingers at those who use violent rhetoric to make political points. I still think it’s a worthy goal to identify dangerous language and tone it down, but I’m going to try to do as the president asked and “pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.” As he said:
“But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
I will do my best to follow his advice, with one exception: I will listen only to those who are active in the legislative process. I will ignore people such as Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on the right and Michael Moore on the left. I’m cynical enough to believe they don’t contribute anything to the debate, that they don’t actually want to have a debate but rather polarize us even more. I won’t waste my time worrying about them.
However, I will aim to do better at listening to and considering the leaders in Congress with whom I disagree. Whether I like it or not, they are the elected officials who are going to guide the nation’s policies for the next two years. They deserve a chance to share their ideas.
And although you may get the impression from this blog that I don’t know or like any Republicans, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have dear friends and family members who are Republicans, and with most of them I am able to have informative discussions about our differing views. They are good people who care about our country as much as I do. Unfortunately, I think their moderate voices have been lost in the national party’s march even more to the right in the last couple of years. I will endeavor to remember that there are millions of people like my friends out there who don’t think John Boehner speaks for them any more than I think Harry Reid speaks for me, and I can’t paint all conservatives with one broad brush.
I’m counting on you to help keep me accountable. If you see me going overboard on one particular person or issue, please call me out on it. This tragedy has hit me hard, and I want to do my small part to honor those who are no longer with us and those who are struggling to recover. In that same vein, if you feel so moved, you can donate to Tucson Community Food Bank or the Southern Arizona chapter of the American Red Cross, both charities close to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ heart.