It seems that intolerance, hatred and even violence are on the rise in our country. Minds are closed, tempers flare, angry words are spoken, leading to angry actions. Verbal attacks on those with whom one disagrees are on the rise, physical attcks are threatened, and carried out with ever greater frequency.
Sixteen people were shot yesterday in Tuscon, Arizona. Five died. The apparent target of the attack was U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was critically wounded. Here's a quote from the Associated Press' coverage of this horrific incident:
"During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
'I don't see the connection, between the fundraisers featuring weapons and Saturday's shooting,' said John Ellinwood, Kelly's spokesman. 'I don't know this person, we cannot find any records that he was associated with the campaign in any way. I just don't see the connection.' "
He doesn't see the connection...how is it possible that something that is so obvious on its face to me, would completely elude this man. It makes me wonder if I could even have a conversation with him wherein we would find a place of mutual understanding. Right now, I tend to doubt that it would be possible.>
Please don't misunderstand; I'm not angry at him. I am just perplexed and saddened. Perplexed at a set of values that put a dubious principle -- the right to own guns -- above the very lives of people. And saddened that I cannot understand Mr. Ellinwood, Mr. Kelly, and all the others who subscribe to this belief, and that they, most likely, cannot understand me.
While a dialog on this topic needs to happen, I'm fairly certain the country is not ready to have an open and productive conversation on this matter. Before that can happen, leaders must emerge on both sides of the issue; leaders with cool heads and open minds, who are capable of setting a tone of respect and of leading by example. Only then will a productive debate be possible.
Until then, I think those of us who abhor violence, who believe that violent words lead to violent deeds, and who refuse to fetishize guns and violent behavior, must commit ourselves to radical nonviolence. By that I mean that even when we are most frustrated by events and the reactions of others to those events, we must refrain from anger. We must not vent our frustration, but rather set an example of peace, love and understanding in all our words and deeds. Be the change. It is the only way.