Commentary: Shootings reveal need to look closely at ourselves, our words
While the terrible shootings that occurred Saturday and took the lives of six people — including a Federal judge and left a Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, fighting for her life — we all need to pause and reflect on how this hits home. This nine-year old — born on 9/11/01 — was the granddaughter of Phillies’ legend Dallas Green and no stranger to Chester County.
Christina — six months to the day younger than my own daughter — paid a terrible price for a lesson we must learn again: to disagree is not to be evil, it is the bedrock of our republic. It is, sadly, a lesson we have had to learn over and over again as our political passions overwhelm our common sense.
It didn’t take long for people to start pointing fingers — and Sarah Palin has become the trendy pick. Sorry, I’m not buying it. Like or dislike the former Alaska governor, at worst, she is merely a symptom, not the cause of where we find ourselves.
My email box is filled with dire messages from political groups across the spectrum, trying to raise money by portraying their political opponents as evil. We — and I say that advisedly, as someone who has been active in the political arena and put out my share of hysterical rhetoric — have stoked hatred for political gain and only now see the blood stains in the parking lot of a Safeway in Tuscon. We truly spilled our most precious blood when an innocent victim like Christina was struck down.
As terrible as the events of Saturday were, as much as we all mourn for the victims and feel for our former neighbors in the Unionville area — Dallas Green and his family — we must learn from this. But we don’t start by pointing the finger of blame.
Unless we’re prepared to look at a mirror.
This is our fault, collectively. Politicians and campaign strategists across the political spectrum used hate and fear to motivate and divide. We as voters and citizens cheered this on, flocking to watch the news network that seemed to support “our side.” We started treating our politics like a sporting match and turned it into little more than pro wrestling.
And in truth, to choose to demonize those whom we disagree with is to diminish ourselves, and worse, limit what we can achieve as a nation.
Throughout Saturday, I found myself thinking back a day regarding a lengthy, wide-ranging interview I did with State Rep. Steve Barrar — for a story scheduled to appear on Monday. Steve, a now eight-term incumbent, had to live with me as a raucous and at times, over-the-top opponent in 2004, with virtually no chance of unseating him. And yeah, it got nasty and stupid at times, mostly on my side.
Until this past year, when I returned to journalism, Steve and I really didn’t have a chance to talk at length. And here’s what I discovered: he really cares about what he’s doing and trying to do what he thinks will help people. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that he and I still don’t agree on a wide range of issues and probably never will — although the differences are probably less now than seven years ago.
And yet, at the end of the day, he’s a pretty good guy and his heart is in the right place. In truth, I could no more consider the Easter Bunny evil. Like most of our elected officials, Republican and Democrat, these are hard-working people who have sacrificed a lot of time — especially family time — to work on our behalf.
We’ve allowed ourselves to vilify those wearing the wrong color just because they’re wearing the wrong color, maybe because it’s easier to blame the other side than to suck it up, work together and tackle the difficult problems we as a nation are facing. When we treat our government like sports or a reality show, it’s fun and exciting, not hard, sometimes painful work. And it’s what we chose.
But unlike sports or entertainment, this choice had victims.
This is an opportunity to for us to do some soul searching and not point the finger at others, but rather, to look deeper at ourselves.
That’s the least we owe Christina and the other victims of this horrible day.