“We’re Better than This”


The International Space Station

I’m struck by the words of Representative Gabrielle Giffords’s Brother-in-law, Commander Scott Kelly, currently aboard the International Space Station. In an address to Mission Control after the shooting of Ms. Giffords, he said:

We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not.

These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.

We’re better than this. We must do better.

Last night, President Obama delivered a moving eulogy for the deceased at McKale Center in Tucson that echoed this sentiment. Media outlets are saying, “Obama Recaptures His 2004 Voice,” and “Obama Re-introduces the Human Element to the Giffords Tragedy.” In fact, the President managed to bring Commander Kelly’s point back down to earth by focusing on the one thing we can all agree on: the ideals and expectations of our world through the eyes of a nine year-old.

Much ado has been made about the tone of the political rhetoric following the Tucson massacre. It happened almost immediately, as if it were a loaded mousetrap and someone went for the cheese. In our desperation to cope with the tragic events, we searched for reasons why and wound up focusing on the language that has been used over the last couple of years in regard to our partisan politics.

The left quickly jumped on the map of contested districts (including Gifford’s) that were “targeted” as potential Tea Party wins. The map employed rifle scope crosshairs to indicate the districts. Even Giffords herself cautioned that there could be consequences from using such imagery. Palin countered a few days later saying that the killer was apolitical and suddenly the term “blood libel” re-entered the lexicon. This turned out to be another unfortunate choice of words that conservatives used without knowing the full meaning of the phrase. Blood libel is the centuries old false phraseology for accusing Jews of using Christian baby blood in their rituals. Giffords is Jewish.

Also referenced was Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies” comments. One of the more interesting things that occurred last night, however, was Jon Stewart’s interview with Governor Tim Pawlenty on the Daily Show. Stewart, a longtime advocate for reasonable discourse, posited to Pawlenty that the rhetoric does not match the reality, that governance hasn’t changed that much since the Bush administration but that the amped up war of words would lead one to believe that the apocolypse was upon us. Pawlenty’s reaction was a bit lukewarm.

Pundits and critics alike on both the left and the right have hurled accusations of blame at each other in the days following the shooting. Critics perhaps thought the President’s presentation would be stiff and elitist but last night’s speech proved that he may actually be the adult in the room. He calmly assured everyone that our nation of 300 million people are like one big family. Families have disagreements but we all have commonalities as well and in order to move forward, we have to find that common ground rather than put each other down because we have different beliefs.

Presidents are often judged by their choice of words in a time of crisis. The Gettysburg Address, FDR and the Infamy speech, Kennedy and “Ask not what your country can do for you,” Reagan, Clinton, and even George W. Bush at ground zero. I think this eulogy in Tucson will be one of the defining moments in President Obama’s and America’s history.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of McKale Center. We regret the error.


About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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51 Responses to “We’re Better than This”

  1. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Well said.

    Only time will tell if it is truly one of Obama’s top 3, ranking with the 2004 Dem National Convention, and the 2008 Philly Race speech.

  2. Mainer says:

    Max in all honesty this president could have delivered the original sermon on the mount and he would have been savaged for it. Unless and until we cram the regressives back into their dark corners we as a nation are ungovernable.

  3. shiloh says:

    In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.” 34
    I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

    Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address was pretty good also ie The Gold Standard!

    Less is more like ‘The Gettysburg Address’ …

  4. mclever says:

    Lincoln was quite the wordsmith.

  5. Monotreme says:

    Did Presidents write their own speeches in Lincoln’s day? I seem to remember that they did because there are multiple drafts of the Gettysburg Address IIRC.

    I’m asking in all honesty, not as a snarky, sideways teleprompter jibe.

  6. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    More on Judy Clarke, who will be Loughner’s defense lawyer.

  7. mclever says:

    Monotreme,

    Yes, Lincoln wrote his own speeches…

    My understanding has been that Obama writes most of his own speeches, too.

  8. Mr. Universe says:

    Oops. I accidentally liked my article.

  9. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Well, U, if YOU don’t like yourself, how do you expect the REST of us to do so?

  10. GROG says:

    While the left is lecturing the right on “civil discourse” I can’t help but to wonder.

    *When Obama said “I bring a gun to a knife fight”, was that civil discourse?
    *When Obama said “conservatives cling to their guns and religion”, was that civil discourse?
    *When speaking to Latinos about immigration reform and Obama said “We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us” was that civil discourse?
    *When Democrats used political maps with targets and terms like “targeting” and “behind enemy lines”, was that civil discourse?
    *Did Rev. Wright preach civil discourse in his church?
    *Did Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground practice civil discourse?
    *Did Van Jones and his STORM friends practice civil discourse?
    *Has the leftwing media treated Sarah Palin with civil discourse?
    *Was Christine O’Donnell treated with civil discourse?

    It’s laughable that the right gets lectured about civil discourse from the left.

  11. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    GROG,

    Don’t you realize that EVERYTHING you bring up, save Palin and O’Donnell, is well over a year, many more than two, old????

    Don’t you realize the fact that Gabby Giffords herself, in March 2010, pointed out that there “could be consequences” as a result of Palin’s “crosshairs” post?????? Do you not the the terrible irony in that??

    Point to anything NOT civil in reference to the campaign of Chrissy O, please.

    You are in SUCH a SMALL minority, essentially the 20% of Palinistas in this country, toeing that line. So sad,

  12. GROG says:

    Max,

    Do you realize the shooting had NOTHING to do with Sarah Palin?

    The fact that he’s a pot head may have had something to do with it. Or the fact the he’s a 9/11 truther. Or the fact that he believes the government is using grammar as a means of mind control. Or the fact that he believes the government faked the Rover Mars landing. Or the fact that he’s a deranged lunatic.

    But it had nothing to do with any map of Sarah Palin’s.

  13. GROG says:

    And Max, do you realize Loughner was obsessed with Giffords as early as 2007 when most of America had never heard of Sarah Palin?

    Do you remember the CNN programs “Crossfire”? Do you remember what the logo was for the show? It was a crosshairs. It’s nothing new in politics.

  14. GROG says:

    “I have a Glock 9 millimeter, and I’m a pretty good shot.” Gabrielle Giffords to the NYT.

    God bless you Gabby.

  15. Brian says:

    GROG,

    I think you’re missing the point. It’s not a matter of whether the left or the right did it, or which side is worse, the inflammatory rhetoric needs to be toned down. Both sides are guilty of it at times, and you can point fingers until the end of time, but it won’t help a damned thing. The tone of political discourse is this country is unlike that of any other civilized country. I’ll admit I’m not as in tune with the politics of Europe, but I’m betting neither side is this intense over there.

    Maybe that wasn’t the cause of this shooting, but if we keep calling for politicians to be killed, whether it be Palin, Bush, Obama, Pelosi, whomever, eventually someone will do it.

  16. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    GROG,

    No matter how MANY times you beat that horse, it WILL remain dead.

    Dead as Palin’s Presidential hopes after yesterdays whinefest.

    Cheers!

  17. Number Seven says:

    Yep, we all know ‘pot heads’ are nortorius killers…. of bags of doritos….

    If this guy was really a pot head, he would have been too busy watching anime and masturbating to go out and kill anyone.

    The fact is he quit smoking pot and started working out so he could try to get into the armed forces.

  18. Number Seven says:

    Yep, let’s blame (illegal) pot rather then guns with (legal) 30 round clips for this tragedy.

    At least Mule Rider is trying to distance himself from you idiots.

  19. Armchair Warlord says:

    Anyone who thinks marijuana played some part in this probably pronounces it mara-ya-wanna. 😉

  20. drfunguy says:

    @Grog
    “While the left is lecturing the right ”
    Still waiting on that example of rhetoric as extreme as Coulter or Liddy from a high profile lefty. I’ll take that as an admission that your side is more routinely violent and inflamatory in their speech.

  21. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    GROG just doesn’t get it that the WHOLE ISSUE UNDER DISCUSSION is not laying direct blame for the Tucson event on Palin, Angle, Beck, a left winger or any other ONE THING. The issue is to tone down all of the references to violence and guns in politics. That the atmosphere, created due to the rhetoric, gives those with less than full capabilities of rational thought, the hint that actually carrying out those references is OK.

    We all pretty well understand that the Angle-2nd Amendment-Palin-“crosshairs”-Giffords-Loughner link was JUST a coincidence.

  22. GROG says:

    @drfunguy: Still waiting on that example of rhetoric as extreme as Coulter or Liddy from a high profile lefty. I’ll take that as an admission that your side is more routinely violent and inflamatory in their speech.

    Mike Malloy on Dick Cheny: I’ll feel intense gratitude when this miserable bastard dies.”

    Mike Malloy: “Drudge? Aw, Drudge, somebody ought to wrap a strong Republican entrail around his neck and hoist him up about six feet in the air and watch him bounce.”

    Howard Dean: “I hate Republicans and everything they stand for.”

    Julianne Malveaux on Clarence Thomas: “The man is on the Court. You know, I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early, like many black men do, of heart disease. Well, that’s how I feel. He is an absolutely reprehensible person.”

    Chris Matthews: “The group in this country that most resembles the Taliban, ironically, is the religious right.”

    Mike Malloy: “I have a good news to report; Glenn Beck appears closer to suicide – I’m hoping that he does it on camera; suicide is rampant in his family, and given his alcoholism and his tendencies towards self-destruction, I am only hoping that when Glen Beck does put a gun to his head and pulls the trigger, that it will be on television, because somebody will capture it on YouTube and it will be the most popular video for months.”

    Mike Malloy: “I hope that Limbaugh chokes to death.”

    Rep. Pete Start of CA to interviewer: “Get the f**k out of here or I’ll throw you out the window:”

    Would you like me to go on?

  23. dcpetterson says:

    GROG,

    Don’t you realize how senseless that is as a defense?

    The “YOU GUYS DO IT TOO!” whine is an admission 1) that you do it, and 2) that it’s a bad thing.

    If it was a good thing to do, you’d be saying, “We did it FIRST! So there!” Or maybe, “We do it BETTER!” or maybe “We do it and you don’t!”

    But no. All you’ve got is “You do it too!”

    So fine. Let’s admit everyone does it. Now you have to defend it. Tell us why you love that rhetoric so much. On the left, we’re all saying, “This kind of talk is bad, and has to stop.” You’re saying, “It’s bad, and you do it too! And we don’t want to stop!

    You’re like an alcoholic, helpless before your addiction, aware that it’s killing you, but unwilling to even consider giving it up.

    So if it’s bad, join us, and sin no more. Or tell us why sinning is good. But stop with the “You too!!” That’s just pathetic.

  24. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    dc,

    It’s the only ammunition his gun is calibered for.

    (Damn! I just HAD to say it!)

  25. shiloh says:

    Max, grog ran out of logical ammunition some time ago ~ just sayin’

    er the oldie, but goodie:

    Don’t want to get in a battle of wits, w/an unarmed man/fool/troll

  26. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    shiloh,

    But it’s an easy win!

  27. drfunguy says:

    @Grog
    Who is Mike Malloy and why do you consider him a prominant spokesperson for the left? I have never heard of him.

  28. filistro says:

    Mike Malloy is Grog’s next-door neighbor. They go out for a drink together on Thursday nights.

  29. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    I had never of the guy ante GROG’s comments, either.

  30. GROG says:

    DC: Don’t you realize how senseless that is as a defense?

    Firstly, do you realize I was answering drfunguy’s question?

    Secondly, our side has been accused of being responsible for the shootings by the left. Our defense to that accusation is that there is no evidence that maps or strong rhetoric had anything to with the shootings. Zero evidence. None. He was obsessed with Giffords before anyone knew who Palin was. He was not part any political faction or movement. It’s senseless to try to associate him with the Tea Party or Palin or anyone on the right or the left. His actions were a result of his own deranged mental illness.

    Thirdly, we’re pointing out how insane the accusation is by giving example after example of hate speech by the left.

    How is that a senseless defense?

    Your rebuttal to our argument is “I know we’re both poopy heads, but you guys are poopier poopy heads”. That seems more senseless to me.

  31. shortchain says:

    I had to google the guy. Apparently he’s on the radio in 13 markets (of approximately 302) across the country and on X-band. I don’t know anybody who listens to him. Apparently they keep him on just so they have somebody to point to on the left when someone points out that Rush Limbaugh is at it again (which would be about every 10 seconds).

    I’ve got to say, though, that GROG’s internet searching skills are ramping up. He can really find these obscure references for his “tu quoque” arguments. Now, if only we could teach him a sense of proportionality, it would be something.

    Unfortunately, a sense of proportionality is one of the vital skills conservatives lack.

  32. our side has been accused of being responsible for the shootings by the left.

    Maybe by a very few wackos, but the mainstream left does not (and has not) ‘blamed the right’ as being responsible for this. The right has however claimed that over and over again, which are two entirely different things. The left has said that the political rhetoric needs to be tuned down and the right has responded by claiming the left is blaming them and that they do it too. It’s like an adult talking to a teenager.

  33. GROG says:

    Well, the NYT thinks he’s a one of the country’s most prominent progressive talkers:

    “But like Ms. Maddow, several of the country’s most prominent progressive talkers — Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy — had largely left Air America well before this week’s closing.”

    http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/progressive-radio-hosts-say-air-america-closing-wont-affect-them/

    Because no one is interested in hearing anything progressives have to say, I admit it’s difficult to find a progressive as high profile as Liddy or Coulter.

  34. GROG says:

    @electrovible: Maybe by a very few wackos, but the mainstream left does not (and has not) ‘blamed the right’ as being responsible for this.

    Mr. Universe from this very blog holds Angle complicit in the shootings. Is he one of the “very few wackos” you’re referring to?

  35. filistro says:

    GROG, sweetie… please. You know I love you, but please, just stop this.

    Nobody holds any individual on the right “complicit” in this particular shooting. We’ve seen the pictures of Jared Loughner and heard his bio. We’re all pretty sure the guy was living in a crazed, apolitical bubble.

    What we ARE saying…

    ARE YOU LISTENING, GROG? PAY ATTENTION!!!

    Good.

    What we are saying is that the extreme and vitriolic rhetoric on the right… particularly the constant gun imagery… is creating a climate in which violence is more likely to happen.

    Do you see the difference?

    Say you run a restaurant in a big city. I get severe food poisoning and write an editorial saying that lax health regulations in city restaurants are causing people to get sick. You react by saying “You’re accusing me of giving you food poisoning!” But what I’m saying is the general climate (of which you are a part) is creating a situation that might be dangerous… and my recent illness is an example of the potential danger.

  36. Mr. Universe from this very blog holds Angle complicit in the shootings. Is he one of the “very few wackos” you’re referring to?

    No, he holds her responsible for using words in every day speech that call for tragedies such as this. Should we not hold our elected officials accountable for the imagery they use to convey their beliefs? Do you deny that using ‘2nd amendment remedies’ and this very tragedy are one in the same?

  37. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Actually, I was the first who said that it would be an interesting, but very weak, legal case to join Angle and Palin in a civil action arising from the Tucson shootings.

    Let the will of “We the People” decide, according to the Constitution, Amendment VI.

  38. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    My actual quote was: ‘fragile legal thread”.

  39. shortchain says:

    GROG,

    Let’s try for accuracy. In one item, written by one or two reporters, Malloy was given a place of prominence.

    Interpretation: In their continuing effort to provide “he said, she said” journalistic balance, they came up with this idiocy.

    That’s no reason to accept this as incontrovertible fact. There are, in fact, hundreds of more prominent “liberal” writers and public figures — and none of them are providing words useful to your argument. Some of them (Krugman, for instance) write at the NYTimes. Or should we regard the NYTimes as definitive only when it happens to be useful to your argument?

  40. GROG says:

    Fili: Nobody holds any individual on the right “complicit” in this particular shooting.

    Mr. U does. Do you need me to find the exact quote?

    OK here it is…Let me be clear. I hold Sharron Angle complicit in this tragedy.
    Jan 9 in the “Violence as a Political Tool” thread. He was very clear about that.

    Look Fili, I love you to. I’m going to try to state this as simply as I possibly can.

    When you say, “What we are saying is that the extreme and vitriolic rhetoric on the right… particularly the constant gun imagery… is creating a climate in which violence is more likely to happen”, you are also saying that “extreme and vitriolic” rhetoric and “gun imagery” on the left does not create a climate in which violence is more likely to happen.

    Why is that? Whey does the extreme rhetoric and such not create violence when it comes from the left but it does when it comes from the right?

    With that said, extreme rhetoric from either side had nothing to do with the Tuscon shootings and there is no evidence that extreme rhetoric even creates a climate that increases violence. Loughner clearly wasn’t motivated by any extreme rhetoric. Where then is all the violence from extreme rhetoric?

    And the thing is, you’re smart enough and reasonable enough to understand that. That’s why I question the motivation of making these accusations.

  41. Mr. Universe says:

    @GROG

    What we are saying is that the extreme and vitriolic rhetoric on the right… particularly the constant gun imagery… is creating a climate in which violence is more likely to happen.

    What she said. Now give it a rest.

  42. @GROG, I’m still waiting for your reply. Do you deny that using ’2nd amendment remedies’ and this very tragedy are one in the same?

  43. mclever says:

    In my opinion, in light of the reality of how tragic a violent gun act against a political figure truly is, I find all of the vitriolic rhetoric and gun imagery to be in exceedingly poor taste.

    I’m not saying there’s any complicity or link between the words and the acts of a madman, but if the people who keep talking tyranny and guns don’t really want more of the same, they should stop implying that they do.

  44. GROG says:

    @electro,

    No I don’t think shooting innocent people at a supermarket have anything to do with second ammendment rights.

    Mr. U: What she said. Now give it a rest.

    OK. I’ll give it a rest Mr. U.

  45. dcpetterson says:

    GROG, the question was about “second amendment remedies,” not “second amendment rights.” As you well know, which is why you changed the question. Clearly, you cannot defend the rhetoric of the right, can you?

    We have seen the blood of patriots spilled on our soil. Stop pretending it is anything other than a tragedy. Stop trying to encourage more of it by using this offensive imagery as something to be glorified.

  46. dcpetterson says:

    Whey does the extreme rhetoric and such not create violence when it comes from the left but it does when it comes from the right?

    Because, according to the study that was linked a couple of days ago, over the last few decades, there has been roughly an 80 – 1 ratio of right wing vs. left wing violence. There is data on this.

    The right has a very loud megaphone, and its rhetoric is far more specific and pervasive. I do not defend the remarks you have listed from liberals. I deplore those as well. But the data clearly shows which extreme has a greater tendency toward acting out this rhetoric.

    But put all that aside. Forget the right vs. left. Do we want to spill the blood of more patriots? Do we want to keep holding this up as a Good Thing? Will you not join us in condemning this vile and violent rhetoric, regardless of its source?

  47. No I don’t think shooting innocent people at a supermarket have anything to do with second ammendment rights.

    That wasn’t the question.

    The question was, is what happened this weekend a ‘2nd amendment remedy’? Do you deny that Laughner used a ‘2nd amendment remedy’ to the problem that he saw?

  48. mclever says:

    dcpetterson,

    To be fair, the “study” linked to in a previous thread wasn’t particularly thorough or unbiased. I’d rather not go into the specifics, but let’s just say that there were several fundamental flaws in the way the information was gathered and reported that would tend to create a bias against finding any “left wing” violence. In recognition of that bias, at best that link could be considered a reasonable accounting of recent right wing violence in this country.

  49. Number Seven says:

    I suppose one of us could combine the one from Salon and the one from Michelle Malkin but after having looked at her mismash, it would take some doing. The don’t seem to cover the same time line and she includes things like cutting up a cardboard stand up of Bush. Maybe a way to rate each act perhaps?

    Anyways, more work then I have time for.

  50. dcpetterson says:

    Thanks for the clarifications, mclever. Better data is always better data.

  51. Pingback: Outrage Speech: Was the Left Right? | 538 Refugees

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