Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Nation in Shock

A Call for Calm Words and Action in an Hour of Crisis
Rabbi Steve Weisman – Temple Solel, Bowie MD
January 8, 2011 6:30 PM EST

The shocking and senseless shooting attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona earlier today leaves all people of conscience stunned and outraged. That this event occurred during a public event in which she was doing her job of meeting with her constituents, so that she might better represent them in Congress, in this era of widespread discontent with our elected leadership for being out-of-touch, adds a touch of painful irony to an already horrendous event. That at least 5 innocent bystanders, among them a federal judge and a 9 year old girl, died in this assault, and as many as a dozen others were wounded, adds further pain to this inconceivable occurrence.

At this relatively early hour, so close to the event, we already have a suspect in custody and publicly identified – a 22 year old, described in some reports as a military veteran. Such an identification would be even more troubling, but it is important to remember that his arrest does NOT mean he is guilty, or even involved. Only time and further investigation will be able to prove – or disprove – that assertion, or any of the many of the “details” currently being aired.

There are many – from all positions on the political spectrum, who have already rushed to judgment in making connections or proposing motivations, and causes. NONE of these have yet been proven either, and in this moment of our shocked response to tragedy, they do little to help bring calm or understanding. Indeed, initial reports had the Congresswoman dying in the attack, a report which has thankfully proven erroneous. And many of us remember the hours following the attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, in which most media outlets assumed, erroneously, a connection to foreign terror groups.

What is needed right now is national calm, prayer and caring concern for all of the victims and their families – those who have suffered losses that thankfully, few if any of us can imagine. That, and a unanimous condemnation of the actions of those responsible. Nothing else would be an appropriate reaction.

However, as the hours and days will pass, we will likely learn a great deal more about those involved – whether we wish to or not. What we have learned already has led to wild speculation in numerous areas of national policy debate and disagreement, and irresponsible calls from both sides that are neither supported by facts nor an adequate expression of responsibility on the part of our political system.

The best result we can demand as a nation for an outcome from such a tragedy is a full and transparent investigation which leads to a clear and unquestionably accurate conviction of those responsible, with appropriate sentencing to follow. Those whose sense of outrage has led them to make intemperate statements about those accused of such a crime being unworthy of Constitutional protections fail to grasp the true significance of those rights guaranteed to all citizens of our country.

But similarly, those who have called for a deliberate attempt NOT to politicize the shooting of a politician in broad daylight seem more motivated by fear of what a full investigation might disclose than a sincere desire to protect our nation from additional pain.

Whatever motives and connection may yet be proven, it is clear that this tragedy obligates our nation, in its aftermath, to seriously, and honestly, without politics or rhetoric, explore deeply a number of issues which may have entered into this shooting. These include, but are not limited to:

Gun control
Protection of our elected leaders
Immigration and border policies
Care of military veterans
The tone and tenor of political campaign materials
The tone and tenor of political discourse, and our continuing rush to the extremes as a nation
The level of violence in our society in general.

Only then can the victims of this attack, which tonight includes every American, hope to achieve closure, and gain some sense of normalcy in the aftermath of this tragedy. Let us all pray and work for our country, now even more than ever.

1 comment:

  1. I think we should all stay calm after this tragedy in Arizona. This is not the first politician shot by a nutcase. Two recent examples are George Wallace and Ronald Reagan.
    Political speech has been hotter in this country; for example, the political climate in the 1960’s when we had the assassinations of JFK and MLK. We should tone down the “blame game,” and let the investigators do their jobs. We should always remember, as the gun control advocates say, “speech dose not kill, GUNS do.”