Unity and Grace

President Obama has spoken at the official memorial for the victims of this week’s shootings in Arizona, and it’s a powerful, emotional speech, one that certainly seemed to resonate with the audience in Tucson… I’ll admit it, I couldn’t help getting emotional myself – after all, it’s not a nationalist thing or a partisan thing, it’s a human thing.

Meanwhile, in the light of the same events, and in the face of mounting criticism of American political rhetoric, Sarah Palin’s invoked the Blood Libel (a antisemitic slur that has led to persecution of Jews throughout the last two thousand years); her self-allignment with horrors such as pogroms and the Holocaust is a pretty crass attempt to play the victim card, especially reflected against a speech that stressed unity and reconciliation. It’s easy to think this is politics as usual, but that’s the problem, most of the time politics as usual doesn’t mean a damn, just a depressing theatre of intelligent, educated people acting like a bunch of school children, the bullies, nerds and shy kids. When they rise above it, like Obama did yesterday, they can display leadership and compassion. When they don’t… Well, that the thing, they don’t, not enough anyway.

But you know what? I’m not suggesting politicians are all the same, I’m suggesting that it’s something we all fall victim to. I don’t think it’s a simple Left/Right political thing perpetuated by individuals on either side; heck, I know from the 34 years I’ve been living in my brain that all this can be enacted in one person, two contradictory opinions living in the same headspace. There’s the knee-jerk, shout-first-think-later part that finds it incredibly easy to mouth off given the right stimulus, then there’s the rational, thoughtful part that only decides to speak up after the fact and walks out, Homer Simpson like, when losing an argument with the rest of the brain. It’s frustrating.

There’s a need to display more grace in our interactions, which isn’t as easy you’d expect when we’re always on the defensive. And yet it’s essential – it starts with doing the Grumpy Old Man thing, it ends with calls for hanging and flogging, and we shouldn’t be surprised when public servants pick up on that and, at best, go a little crazy or, at worst, use it as a mandate to push their darker impulses.

Obama’s speech played to the better angels of our nature, but we’ve all got an ape and an angel warring within us. And I guess the question is, who are we going to allow to win? Because victory and history goes to the winners; they get to own the narrative, but how do we win? With barbs and bullets?

Or with something better?

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.


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