I’m quite interested to see what President Obama has to say tonight when he speaks in Tucson about the recent shooting at the Rep. Gifford event. And I’m hopeful.
While I’ve disagreed with most of his decisions as a president, I’m hoping he understands the power of this moment and the influence he can have on the nation now. I heard the opportunity compared to the Oklahoma City Bombing from so many years ago when President Clinton used the tragedy as a uniting moment. It’s the same thing that President Bush did post-9/11, although the Oklahoma City Bombing and the Tucson Shooting were internally generated tragedies.
Some may argue the role of rhetoric in the shooting and in politics today. Personally, I think many on both sides of the aisle should hang their heads in shame for encouraging, consciously or not, this atmosphere of extremism, hate, intolerance, and absolutism. Whether rhetoric played a role in the Tucson Shooting is, largely, irrelevant, but I certainly hope Obama uses it as a moment to build, unite, and calm the masses.
So, Mr. President, here’s my suggestion:
- I beg you not to point fingers. Don’t blame the Republicans. Don’t blame the Democrats. Don’t blame the radio show hosts. Don’t even blame the rhetoric. Don’t add any power to those who use their voices and forums to spread hate, anger, and violence.
- Call for action. Call for peace. Call for civility. And do it by example. You have done your fair share of blaming, fear mongering, and attacking as have most of us (myself included). This is not the place for that.
- Set a new tone not just for your administration and presidency, but for politics in general. Don’t create any divides tonight when you speak. Don’t even create the opportunities for them. We are all Americans in our cores, and while we disagree on certain aspects, our foundation is the same. Build there.
This is a catalyst moment, and I hope you understand that. It’s a point that forces a turn, and because of your position, you get to determine that. The Republicans can’t do it because of the political nature of the shooting. True or not, it certainly seems that one of their own pulled the trigger (and yes, I understand that no true Republican–or Democrat for that matter–would ever accept that fool in their ranks). Other Democrats can’t do it because that ruins your street cred. We won’t trust you if you can’t take the lead. And the Independents can’t do it because it’s not their fight. It’s not their place.
It’s all on you.
Take the lead, and the nation will follow. Don’t, and we’ll find our own disparate paths.