I spent most of yesterday seething over Sarah Palin’s incredible, “turn defense to offense” speech. The woman whose violent rhetoric has poisoned the political discourse by positing the President as enemy rather than opposition spoke from her secure bubble, denying responsibility on any level and positing a false equivalence between her actions and those of the Democrats.1
I’d pored through her text, marking of all kinds logical inconsistencies, and had planned a long post built around the snarky statement she’d made when accepting the VP nomination in 2008: As Mayor of Wasilla, she — unlike community organizer Barack Obama — had “actual responsibilities.” Of course, she has no patience with responsibilities: resigning as governor to line her pockets and enrich the public discourse with Tweets; and now this wholly uncharitable excoriation of those whose search for explanation for the Arizona tragedy dared to point out some inconvenient facts. (That isn’t to say that Palin’s to blame for what happened last week, just that it was proper to consider context — especially the statement that Rep. Giffords had made at the very time the gun sight map was issued. This is the most nuanced discussion of the complexity of the responsibility issue I’ve seen, and it’s from a conservative.)
But no more. After hearing Obama’s speech, I’m going to back away and say nothing further about Palin. (I already wrote more than I’d planned. It’s hard to help it.) Let’s focus on the memorial instead.
Although I thought there was something off-putting and almost creepy about the pep-rally response to this memorial speech — can you imagine a similar response to, say, the Gettysburg Address? — the speech itself was Obama at his finest. (I encourage those who haven’t heard the speech to read the transcript instead, or at least first. Then you get the beauty of the speech without the cheerleading. It’s here.) For me, this complex call to healing through expanding our vision was the highlight:
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. After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.
Note the brilliant connection between the political and the deeply personal. And then he moved back to the victims, focusing on the only child killed, Christina Taylor Green. As a parent of twin girls not much younger than Christina, I was especially affected by his comments about her:
And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.
Mostly, this just made me want to be a better parent. But maybe that impulse will carry over into my dealings with others. Let’s hope so.
- Here I refer to the infamous gun sights that populated her Congressional map; it’s true, as a Daily Dish reader noted, that some years before a map generated by Dems contained targets — but they weren’t gun sights. And even if they were, is that a good defense? Actually, maybe the gun sights aren’t worse than targets in a nation that allows assault weapons but outlaws lawn darts. ↩