Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Obama Gets It Right

Posted by Warren Peterson on January 13, 2011

“Tell Sarah Palin: Violent threats have consequences” was shared by a friend on my Facebook recently. It called out Palin and the Right as purveyors of hate. Usually I let such rhetoric from the Left pass but this time replied with a comment:

“…but the shooter, according to some who knew him, was not political. Also, his hatred of Rep. Giffords started well before the Tea Party or Gov. Palin came on the national scene. The charged rhetoric comes from both the Right and the Left (see MSNBC or the anti Bush “hate speech” on the web). While sometimes the talk exceeds the bounds of civility, I’ll accept it as a price of free speech. If you believe that Palin or Limbaugh or conservatives pulled the trigger in Tucson, listen to President Obama’s remarks at the memorial event held tonight at the University of Arizona.”

In his well crafted, well done speech, he included the following:

“You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. 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 us 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 our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

President Obama’s words were presidential, appropriate and hopefully presage a new spirit of cooperation.


One Response to “Obama Gets It Right”

  1. Fredc said

    Amen, Warren. I actually remember having some political conversations with you and others on the bridge of the Oriskany in 1965 at 2AM on those long periods with only a single course correction, and while there were differences of opinion expressed, it was very civil, collegial and at least for me, educational. The Senate and House used to operate that way too, but I think the lobby money in campaigns has changed all of that. I’m impressed with John Boehner, so far, and Obama sounds like he wants to get things done. Maybe we can turn a corner in 2011 on the issue of civility in Congress.

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