Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The End of the Innocence

Now that the funerals are over in Tucson, and the heated national rhetoric on both sides of the aisle has cooled, if only for a moment, I wonder if the quiet is merely a short pause or perhaps a new start in how we speak to one another and work together.

If we learned nothing else (finally?) it could be that NOT just sticks and stones can break our bones-words can always hurt us. And the wounds those words can inflict leave damage beyond description and often repair.

We don't have any time to waste in this country parceling out responsibility for who caused what and why--nothing we say can change what happened. Only what we are willing to do next can better assure that Tucson remains an aberration and not a reference for future events.

We have watched the coarsening of our political dialogue as it descends to diatribe where opinions loudly voiced became missiles of vilification and vituperation to be hurled at those who dared to disagree with us. Instead of our elections being a marketplace of ideas from which we choose, they are circuses with barkers and balloons with candidates who, too often, arrive in clown cars.

In a 24/7 news cycle on designer cable channels targeted to deliver specific demographics in support of specialized agenda, it's no mercy and no quarter, maximum volume all the time, even when there's nothing to say. Too often the talking head, rarely a reporter and more often a partisan pundit, through innuendo and aspersion reduces 'the opponent' to someone less than a person.

At that moment, it's a very short journey from denigration to destruction. All of us know enough history to realize it has happened and until we can learn to always regard one another's viewpoints and values as valid, even when we disagree with them, we'll always be only one violent coincidence away from the next Tucson, even in Norwich.

Making everything and everyone personal, may be contributing to our loss of respect for one another as well as to the erosion of our humanity. In the immediate days after Tucson there was a giddy gleefulness as each side of the aisle sought to pin the blame on one another. The responsibility for what happened is in our hands in much the way as blood on that market floor, more than enough to go around and as Lady Macbeth learned, far too much to ever clean.

We need to remember 'we share the same biology, regardless of ideology.' We live in a frightening world fraught with dangers and challenges that are beyond the strength of each of us to master which is why we need all of us, and we need us right now. Don Henley once wondered, "Who knows how long this will last? Now we've come so far, so fast. But somewhere back there in the dust, that same small town in each of us."

The fault, my dear Brutus lies not in the small town, but in ourselves. We need to learn (again) to disagree without becoming disagreeable and return civility to our civic discourse, to speak to one another and stop shouting.
-bill kenny

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