Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Bad Things Happen"

If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.
- C.S. Lewis

It’s been a long, sad week in our country.

Five days ago, Americans of all ages, from a 9-year-old child to senior citizens, lay dying in a Tucson parking lot. Many more were wounded, some grievously so, and will face long and difficult recoveries. Yet within minutes, the media rants against “toxic rhetoric” accomplished nothing more than—well, toxic rhetoric.

Politicians pounced on the opportunity to lobby for gun control and the Fairness Doctrine and to advance their political agendas by loudly condemning “vitriol” in public discourse. “Vitriol” seemed to be the word of the week, with “rhetoric” running a close second. The fact that the killer is an apparent lunatic did not quell the irrelevant narrative about the culpability of cable news, talk radio, and former vice presidential candidates.

All the media and political flailing achieved nothing--except disgrace. When blatant ideological agendas are more urgent than grief over murdered innocents, we as a people are in a destructive place. The ugliness published and broadcast this past week was symptomatic of a deeper illness within our culture. It was a sign of the compulsion to demonize those who disagree and the selfish need to win at any cost—even if that means climbing over the dead bodies of children and grandparents.

I’m no fan of Barack Obama, and I didn’t see any coverage of the Tucson event last night. I’ve been so sickened by most of the media that I couldn’t bear to watch. But from what I’ve read today of his remarks, I think he made his best speech ever.

He remembered in detail all of the dead victims, about most of whom we have heard precious little in all the media scrambe for political points. He offered comfort to the families and encouraged us to aspire to higher ideals. He discouraged "vitriol." Probably the most true and important sentence in his address was:

“Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.”

In short, President Obama acted like a leader last night, with a leader’s focus on the truly important and an understanding that it is incumbent upon us to meet, defeat, and rise above the evil that surrounds us. If he starts acting like this all of the time, I could actually begin to respect him as president.

Time will tell if he truly believes the scripture he quoted:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
~ Psalm 46

Let's pray that it is so.