Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hey, not my fault.

True to our way, this week’s print, broadcast and digital media are consumed with a single story — the tragedy of Tucson.  Expect that to be the case for a few days longer and then for it to recede, dramatically so if some other big news crowds it out.  Yes, that’s our way.

The President will be on site tomorrow and, again as is our way, he’s being given all kinds of advice about tone and message.  Don’t make it political, don’t point any fingers, and don’t above all tell the nation what it needs to here.  A sincere I feel/share your/our pain will suffice.  Perhaps that’s the right message for what will be a memorial event, but as suggested in my most recent post, we need another Philadelphia speech, and need it soon.

It seems that Tucson (beyond giving the various media the kind of sensational story they love most) is tailor made for columnists and bloggers (myself included).  Some see this as a teaching moment, which it surely might be, but don’t hold your breath.  There is a lot of finger pointing (from people whose political views I largely share) and a lot of well-reasoned argument against extrapolating too much from this singular event (from those whose political views I largely don’t share).  What strikes me about them all is the bottom line consistency of message across the spectrum — horrendous, but not my fault.

Writers to the left of center generally point fingers at the fire in the theater rhetoric and worse of the right.  They rail against any suggestion that the left has played a role in our overheated atmosphere and most especially against the idea of equal excess, much less moral equivalency.  Their counterparts, often employing an assassination history lesson, essentially ask us to consider this a freestanding one off.  The work of a disturbed individual.  Some have documented how the left has also put violent metaphors forward.  Not our fault, any and all of us.

In watching this dancing around, the attributing and denying blame, I could not help but think of the Holocaust and specifically about the wide-spread assumption of guilt taken on by a generation of young Germans, many of whose parents were not even born at the end of World War II.  I also thought about my feeling of personal having wrong doing during the days of slavery, despite having been born only a month after my refugee parents landed in New York many years after.  Obviously, my German Jewish ancestors had no part in what led to the Civil War, a conflict that I nonetheless consider part of my own history.

Now what’s afoot in the land today is not on the same plane as these two historic events, especially not the Holocaust.  But taking blame, saying it’s my fault, is relevant.  What we’re missing today is that no one seems willing to express even the smallest amount of culpability.  What we hear instead are excuses and rationalizations and in some cases outraged self-righteousness.  None of us pulled the trigger in Tucson, and the many of us have never had the most elementary gun, much less a Glock, in our hands.  Nonetheless, whether by shouting in that theater or simply retreating from, for example, gun control — dare I say calling for replacing the Second Amendment — we surely are at fault.

Societies are not composed, as President Obama reminded us the day after November’s vote, of one view, but of a diversity of opinion and way of life.  As I suggested in that earlier post, the onlookers are as important as the doers.  One could not function without the other  — both for their own part are enablers.  Arthur Miller’s Linda Loman famously said, attention must be paid.  I would suggest, blame must be taken.  Tucson was our fault and is our shame.

I’m waiting for some leading liberal voice to take some responsibility and desperate for some major conservative figure to do the same.  I hope that wait won’t be, as Adlai Stevenson put it, until hell freezes over.

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