Saturday, July 21, 2012

Expect Little

It is customary, following a "tragedy" such as the rampage inside a movie theater very early Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado, to acclaim and laud the inevitable statement of the President of the United States.   He (eventually, no doubt, a "she") is, after all, the only elected official serving the entire nation.  (The Vice-President doesn't count.)

Bu, as President Obama would put it, there are going to be other days for praise.    The President offered the nation a statement early Friday morning at what would have been a campaign event in Fort Myers, Florida, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.    In his brief remarks (transcript here), he comented "So, again, I am grateful that all of you are here.   I'm so moved by your support.   But there are going to be other days for politics.    This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection."

There is no problem with the President of the United States, speaking mere hours after the atrocious criminal attack in Florida, asserting "there are going to be other days for politics."   Binding up the nation's wounds is a time-honored tradition.

There will be time, in the next few days, for Mr. Obama to tell us that the AR-15 apparently used by James Eagan Holmes was purchased legally.   He can tell us that the AR-15 had (as Think Progress reports) a high-capacity clip, banned as "large capacity ammunition feeding devices" in the 1994 assault weapons ban, which has not been renewed since it expired in 2004.  He might remind us that reinstatement of an assault weapons ban probably would dramatically reduce the horrific violence of the drug war in northern Mexico, bordering the U.S.A., and that he himself had campaigned on permanently renewing the ban.

He can, but he won't.   With the opportunity, before the nation's attention turns away, to draw these (and perhaps other) lessons from this latest episode of mass killing in America, the President will take a pass.  

At the memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shooting which left six individuals dead in the wake of the semi-automatic pistol wielded by Gerald Lee Loughner, President Obama stated

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "When I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind. Yes, we have to 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 such violence in the future. (Applause.) But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. (Applause.) That we cannot do. (Applause.) That we cannot do.

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's 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 that our hopes and dreams are bound together. 

Applause followed, and all across the land, media figures and other individuals could be seen swooning.     But it should have been clear that the President (warning:  sports metaphor ahead) had not even swung and missed; he was called out on strikes.   He had failed in a major role of the President of the United States, to mobilize is citizenry to support a lasting solution to a crisis.

He won't do it here, either, especially in a presidential election year.    The National Rifle Association, for the last couple of years, has ginned up fear of Barack Obama by frightening (some) gun owners into thinking Obama is coming after their weapons, and he has been intimidated into silence.    Nothing could be more sure than the NRA would take offense at any hint from the Chief Executive that lax gun laws may have contributed even an iota to the shooting in Aurora- nothing, that is, except that Mitt Romney, who will continue throughout the campaign to accuse the President of a lack of leadership, will not criticize him for giving gun mania a free pass.

We deserve more, much more, from a President of the United States.     It is a reflection of the state of the nation that, come November, this President will be the only individual standing between us and an outcome far worse.

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