Mr. President, You Can Have My Space Today

Did you watch last night’s memorial service at the University of Arizona in Tucson? Did you see Daniel Hernandez, Jr. – the 20-year-old intern who may have saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life – humbly reject the title of ‘hero’? Did you catch President Barack Obama’s speech?

Here’s video of Obama’s speech, which clocked in at about 35 minutes. If you don’t have the time, read the transcript below. It’s worth your time:

To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants who are gathered here, the people of Tucson and the people of Arizona:  I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today and will stand by you tomorrow. 

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts.  But know this:  The hopes of a nation are here tonight.  We mourn with you for the fallen.  We join you in your grief.  And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy will pull through. 

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Our Democracy Hinges on Civil Disagreement

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

I’m trying like hell to refrain from reading the tragic storylines surrounding the Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting.

From the heroic 20-year-old intern who saved Giffords’ life to the nine-year-old girl, born on 9/11 and infatuated by politics, killed in the crossfire, there’s plenty of pathos to go around. All of the stories lead to the same conclusion: Something went terribly wrong and it can never happen again.

It’s hard to know how to experience these violent tragedies anymore, and I’ve seen plenty in my lifetime — Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech. Some have had longer lasting repercussions while others have become just another haunting chapter in our country’s history. Shortly after such an event, there’s a call for change, but rarely is there significant followthrough.

Yesterday, I hopped aboard the change-the-tone bandwagon, because I believe the political discourse in this country has lowered itself to “I’m right, you’re evil.” We’re caught up in a contemptuous time for American politics, and it’s not because we can’t agree or we can’t compromise, but we can’t even properly disagree. “I’m right, you’re evil.” Is that really the best we can do?

Unliked others, I doubt this is a watershed moment for American politics. Sure, politicians and pundits will tread softly the next few months, but the issues and disagreements in our country remain the same. It’s only a matter of time before we’re back to bickering, though with a more sensitive hold on vocabulary. And you know what? Argument is fine, so long as it’s respectful. At its best, a democracy is a constant struggle to make one another better through the challenging and representation of our ideas and our ideals.

At it’s worst, it’s bloodshed. It’s “I’m right, you’re evil.” It’s a total lack of civility, prudence and open-mindedness.

It’s Jared Loughner.

Keith Olbermann Repudiates Rhetoric After Giffords Shooting

I rarely agree with political pundits, but I thought Keith Olbermann’s comments regarding the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was something every America — Democrat, Republican or otherwise — should hear.

See Olbermann’s remarks in the video below. (I’ve included comments I found particularly appropriate below that.)

(Jared Loughner) was not just a mad-man incited by a thousand daily temptations by slightly less-mad-men to do things they would not rationally condone.

He fired today into our liberty and our rights to live and to agree or disagree in safety and in freedom from fear that our support or opposition will cost us our lives or our health or our sense of safety. The bullseye might just as well have been on Mrs. Palin, or Mr. Kelly, or you, or me. The wrong, the horror, would have been – could still be just as real and just as unacceptable.

At a time of such urgency and impact, we as Americans – conservative or liberal – should pour our hearts and souls into politics. We should not – none of us, not Gabby Giffords and not any Conservative – ever have to pour our blood. And every politician and commentator who hints otherwise, or worse still stays silent now, should have no place in our political system, and should be denied that place, not by violence, but by being shunned and ignored.

It is a simple pledge, it is to the point, and it is essential that every American politician and commentator and activist and partisan take it and take it now, I say it first, and freely:

Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans.