This week, I have been reluctant to get on the bandwagon that everyone so quickly boarded by blaming Saturday's horrors on inflamed and violent political rhetoric. Did I think that Sarah Palin's cross hairs map was un-Christian and anti-American? Yes. Could it inspire an act of violence? Perhaps. Did it inspire Jared Loughner last Saturday? I have no idea - and neither do you.
As the President alluded to, it's not surprising that we rush to find answers that give us a feeling of order amidst life's chaotic events. And on one hand, it's encouraging to see that our extreme partisanship and alarming rhetoric is something that Americans are concerned enough about to be where we've looked to place blame. It's an aspect of our current political climate that we need to reform in order to do the serious work of fixing our government, economy and society. But on the other hand, fixating on the rhetoric and giving all our attention to the most immature and irresponsible of our "leaders" (read Sarah Palin) does not honor the memories of those whom we have just lost. It only serves to distract us.
Avoid the distraction. It's better to invest the time in healing and picking-up the shattered pieces of our nation's soul so that we can begin again stronger and more united and loving than we were before.
This is the bitter balm that blesses communities and nations that are struck by tragedy - that after times of great evil we are washed with stronger ties to each other and a renewed sense of purpose. For my generation, we felt this tide most strongly after September 11th. Let us not resist it now, but use the moment wisely.
I heard this message in Janet Napolitano's reading of Isaiah 40 at the memorial service:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. 8The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.Tragedies have befallen us and will continue to befall us. It is after those tragedies that we are called to cry out - our collective voice magnified in the aftermath. The question is, when we get up to that high mountain and lift our voice with strength - what will we say? What will be our cry? Will we say, "be quiet Sarah Palin?" Is she really worth that costly moment of amplification? Maybe she is, but my gut tells me she isn't. Our country is about so much more than what she offers.
So in this tragedy, take comfort my friends. And let us use this time to unite and amplify only our noblest purposes.