Moment of Silence Needs to Be Followed by More Than Just Lowered Voices
"A little soul searching." That is what
And while we don't know all the facts yet and the story is still unfolding, we know enough to know that we need more than a little soul searching.
The fact that the gunman is clearly mentally unbalanced does not absolve us of the responsibility to consider the atmosphere in which the shootings occurred. "Shootings of political figures are by definition 'political,'" writes
And the atmosphere in which this horrible tragedy was born, nurtured and carried to its wretched fruition is toxic. Of course, there are always going to be unbalanced people, just as there are always going to be viruses in our environment -- but what most determines whether those viruses make us sick is the strength of our immune system. When it is stressed and compromised, infections can easily take hold.
And there is no doubt that our collective immune system is worn down, making us more susceptible to the kind of infection that turned that
"The press is our immune system,"
And this calamity should serve as a wake-up call that we need to bring more urgency to strengthening it. It's very easy, as we've seen over the past few years, to ignore the toxicity -- partly because we're swimming in it. But it's time to recognize the obvious: Our society is in danger of coming apart at the seams -- from our overheated political rhetoric and crumbling infrastructure to our rising poverty and shrinking middle class.
This is not a call for passionate debate to come to a halt. But there is a huge difference between passionately disagreeing with your opponents and crudely demonizing them, between considering them adversaries to be engaged and treating them as enemies to be targeted.
Well, not so fast. The atrocity in
Monday's moment of silence was poignant, and we are being urged to follow it by ratcheting down the tone of our political discourse. But that's not enough. Along with raising the politeness level, we must also have a real conversation about what kind of country we want to live in, and take practical, concrete action to create it.
Rage, paranoia and division are not the only possible responses to the very legitimate anger millions of Americans -- on both sides of the political spectrum -- are feeling at the state of the country and the state of their lives. And the
In the wake of the
I'd love to see President Obama use this moment to call on the country to find ways to "overcome evil with good." Americans, he said in a 2006 speech, "want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives." That purpose should be found in the shared national objective of rebuilding our communities and our connection to each other through everyday acts of compassion, generosity, and service.
"Our anger will either lead us to tap into our baser instincts or into the better angels of our nature. And nothing less than the future of our country rides on the decision," I wrote in September.
Given the baser instincts horrifyingly on display in
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Moment of Silence Needs to Be Followed by More Than Just Lowered Voices | Politics
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