Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tragedy Talk and One Girl's Legacy

I was at choir practice last night, and my good friend Matt was in his usual seat next to me. And, as usual, he was surreptitiously texting with his fiance on his iPhone.

Isn't pre-marriage romance sweet?

I'm just kidding. They make a great couple.

At any rate, during a lull in the rehearsal, Matt whispered to me that, as per his betrothed, President Obama was about 30 minutes into a live, televised speech regarding Tucson's mass shooting.

"30 minutes?!" I hissed back. "What's the President got to say about that tragedy to take up half an hour?"

Talk, Talk, Talk

Now, perhaps that wasn't very sensitive of me - expressing consternation over the President's prerogative at being "comforter in chief." Just because I'm not grief-stricken over last Saturday's tragedy in Arizona doesn't mean other people aren't, either. I'm saddened, discouraged, and angry by what Jared Loughner did, of course. But I'm also getting a little disgusted with how political parties have seized on last Saturday's tragedy to make partisan hay while the sun shines.

In the end, most reviews of Obama's speech - even from right-wing pontificator Glenn Beck - have been surprisingly positive, but... couldn't America have gotten along without it? At least, might its consoling platitudes have smacked less of politics if someone other than the President delivered them? Thankfully, at least Obama didn't try to point fingers, unlike his political peers.

Indeed, other Democrats had already maneuvered to - inaccurately, I might add - accuse right wing talk show hosts of inciting a vitriolic atmosphere which nurtured Loughner's hate. Then Sarah Palin proves their point by incorporating the insensitive term "blood libel" while trying to defend her own antagonistic drivel. And, as I quoted on Tuesday, Limbaugh recklessly accused liberals of making Loughner out to be the victim of societal pressures. But of all the things we don't know about Loughner's motives, we do know he didn't listen to talk radio, nor was he a rabid voter. Most likely, he's simply, unfortunately, crazy.

Who's Going to Take the High Road?

Now, this could still be one of those "teachable moments" liberal educators rave about. Because if they didn't resort to the very tactics Democrats accuse them of, the Palin's and Limbaugh's of talk radio do have a valid speck of a point. We Americans have the enviable opportunity - even responsibility - to make our voices heard when we think mistakes are being made, or when we think we know how to make a better mousetrap. What has become bickering and vitriol being slapped across our national consciousness originated in valuable insights into morality and dissatisfaction towards undesirable trends and egregious lapses in judgment.

But who's setting the pace in this exchange of viewpoints?

Might a major part of our national dialog's disconnect be that people of faith have let unsaved entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck do the "morality talking?" Many evangelical pastors and ministry leaders these days have become too busy building up the memberships of their organizations, trying to appeal to our culture. They risk tainting their charisma by taking unpopular stands on hard issues. They don't encourage their adherents to be "in the world but not of it."

And it seems we shouldn't expect ordinary Americans to try and make much of a difference either in their personal spheres of influence. Indeed, don't even people of faith find it easier to hoot - n - holler in favor of charismatic radio personalities than take deliberate steps to change their own lifestyle? None of the pundits speak the truth in love, and quite frankly, they simply don't speak a lot of truth. Facts get lost in hyperbole, history gets picked over like a Thanksgiving turkey, causal relationships get ignored, and complex issues become square pegs getting hammered through round holes.

And it's all wrapped up in "it's their fault" wrapping with a few incendiary nuggets of sarcasm as the bow.

If the whole point of conservative talk radio is to get thick-headed liberals to consider our perspective, wouldn't it be more effective to strip away all of the clutter with which Limbaugh and his ilk insist on clogging their messages? Oftentimes to me, it seems as though they're more interested in ratings than actually encouraging change.

Sometimes the best way to get people to listen is to whisper.

The Memory of Amber Hagerman

We need to shift gears for a moment.

Fifteen years ago today, Amber Hagerman vanished from the Kroger supermarket parking lot where she had been playing here in Arlington, Texas. Four days after that, her lifeless body was found near an apartment complex with nary a clue as to how it got there.

Today, fifteen years after she disappeared, Amber's death remains a mystery. Nine years old when she died, she would be 24 years old this year.

I can't let the day go by without acknowledging this tragedy which took place right here in Arlington, and out of which came the nationwide Amber Alert system.

Which is proof, I suppose, that sometimes, tragedy can be redeemed for the betterment of society.

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