But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.
— President Obama, 1/12/11
Today I am ringing with the wise words of President Obama from last night at the Tucson memorial service. I was also moved by the words of the Governor of Arkansas; Daniel Hernandez, the young intern who saved her life; and all the other voices I heard when I watched the service on the web several hours after it happened.
At the same time, I’m am sad about so much of the politics as usual, the politics of division, the politics of not listening to the other and just imposing a decision without collaboration. I realize this is the dilemma of our time — at least one of them — a world in which most people are truly good and loving in some vital way, and yet finding ways to work together and see another often triggers our defenses, and we act from within protective, hard shells and strongest aggressions. In the face of danger, we are capable of acting according to our worst selves, and yet, I think of something else Obama said about how, in the face of loss, we can rise up our better selves, and use the pain we fee to bring into alignment what we value and how we live:
We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -– but rather, how well we have loved — and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better. And that process — that process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions –- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.
This alignment happens in the words we tell ourselves, the words we speak out into the world, the words that hold worlds of experience and vision, possibility and love.