January 12, 2011

Tragedy in Tucson: My Confession

[Note: after I wrote this today, I didn't want to wait until Thursday (when I usually publish my blog), so it is appearing one day early...]

Following the tragic shooting in Tucson last week, it was so easy to jump on the bandwagon pointing to the causes of such violence in society.  Friends on Facebook immediately began pointing fingers at folks like Sarah Palin, whose website featured gun sights targeting a number of progressive/liberal politicians, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  I had not known about Sarah Palin's "targets," and was horrified enough to post my own status update condeming her and her website.

It's so easy for me to condemn and blame those who (like Palin) are so obviously wrong think differently than I do.  Even as I did so, however, I heard a small voice in the back of my head challenging me to think differently.  Over the next several days, that voice got louder and louder until I could ignore it no longer.

I was utterly annoyed.

I was annoyed, because I didn't want to think differently.  I was certain that my thinking around this issue was right.  Yet the voice told me I needed to look at the words and actions of Sarah Palin and others from a more compassionate, Christ-like point of view. 

The problem was, I didn't want to look at Palin from a Christ-like point of view.

As I read more and more of my fellow progressives indirectly blame Palin for the massacre, it seemed to me that they (we) were "targeting" her in a way that wasn't so different from the way she had "targeted" politicians who disagreed with her.  The voice said that, therefore, we really weren't that different from Palin. 

The problem was, I didn't want to think of myself as being not so different from her.

But as I listened to the voice, I realized that it was right.  Despite her offensive rhetoric and actions, Palin - like the rest of us - got caught up in the ongoing war of words.  Palin - like the rest of us - had been fired upon, and fired back in return

Who, you may ask, fired the first shot?

Just today, I happened to read that some of the earliest written language, coming from Mesopotamia thousands of years ago, included trash talk.  Back then, there were two kinds of people:  farmers and herders.  The farmers trash-talked the herders, and the herders trash-talked the farmers.  In the book of Genesis, we see the result of all this trash-talk:  Cain (the farmer) killed his brother Abel (the herder).  Apparently, things weren't so different, even then.

63 years ago today, Gandhi began a fast to convince Hindus and Muslims in New Delhi to work for peace.  Instead of getting caught up in the conflict and the trash-talk, he searched for - and found - a better way.

Instead of blaming the other side, perhaps we need to spend some time praying for peace.  Perhaps we can, each of us, confess our own participation in the ongoing wars of rhetoric.  Fasting might even be a good idea, as a way of focusing our thoughts.

It is true that when verbal bullets fly, real bullets are more likely to follow.  I, for one, am going to work harder to ensure that none of those verbal bullets come from me.


O said...

I like your way of thinking. I am often disappointed in my friends (and myself?)when they get so one eyed about politics. I don't like the conservatives in my country either but occasionally they are right. People often stoop to just sticking in the dagger when they can. Damn...now I am using violent speak ! Thanks

Danny Bradfield said...

Thanks for reading, O. It is hard to be peaceful in all things, including the words we use. My post of a few weeks ago on the protestors in my neighborhood shows this, too.