This morning there was a memorial service in Tucson for the victims and injured along with Gabrielle Giffords. Barack Obama made a speech that was very well considered among my tweetersphere at the very least. He talked about choosing words that heal, rather than those that wound. From the transcript of the speech:
So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.
Obama returned several times to the image of Christina Green, the nine year old girl who was killed.
And in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.
So deserving of our love.
It’s a great speech. Whoever wrote it should be very pleased with the effect it had in the hearts and minds of those who heard it. In contrast to Sarah Palin’s speeches about blood libel and victimisation. Also in contrast with the response of Fox commentators who criticised it being too long. The same stuffed shirts who’ve been supporting the targetting and shooting rhetoric, no doubt. Personally I won’t link to anything from Fox or News Ltd. because they’re so systematically and irredeemably evil. With one hand they profit from slaughter and tragedy, while with the other they encourage it. The ultimate parasite.
What concerns me at the moment, however, is the gap between the good intentions of Obama’s speech writer and the reality of politics. Yes it was a horrific tragedy that six people were killed that day. Yes, we would like our response to change things for the better. Yes we are appalled that the young man wasn’t given the help he so desperately needed before it came to this.
But what’s going to change on the ground for those suffering from mental illness in the States and many other Western nations? When we think of little nine-year-old white girls we so often picture a middle class scene, not someone who’s parents are homeless, mentally ill or addicted. We certainly aren’t picturing the children in Palestine, Tunisia, Pakistan, Nigeria or Sudan.
Rather than taking away anything from the mourning in Arizona with my cynicism, I’d rather broaden it a little. Encompass more of the humanity we’re focussing on at the moment. Remember the humanity of all humans rather than simply those who are likely to be well spoken of by Presidents.
It’s a little like the memorial services for September 11th. For every four months the US has been in Iraq, it’s been like another September 11th for the people trying to live there. While we were mourning for those shot along with Giffords, a US drone plane dropped bombs in Pakistan.
And of course while familie were mourning those killed and wounded in Arizona, other families are mourning and grieving for those incarcerated in Guantanamo.
Barack Obama had a fantastic opportunity to deliver a brilliant speech today and from all accounts he did it very well. Imagine George Bush trying to respond to a situation like this! What it highlights though is the limitation on Obama’s influence. Yes he’s a great speaker. Yes he seems like a considerate and humane individual, but he’s still hamstrung by the military industrial complex in a nation that produces a large proportion of the worlds arms and munitions, and uses a large proportion of the worlds arms and munitions.
The sentiment of this speech is laudable. Co-operation and consideration. Protecting the world and the culture we’re leaving for our children was and is very much a part of indigenous ideology. In the current climate of fear and toxicity it’s more important than ever to come back to these values. This is what the global banking economy and military industrial complex have been working hard to prevent for the last 50 odd years. So now that “healing, not wounding” has been said let’s jump on it. And let’s expand it to include every being on the planet; not only white middle class Americans.