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In a world of non-stop news cycles and bitter political arguments today is a time for deeper reflection and for all Americans to come together.
We are united in grief as Americans, not as Democrats, independents or Republicans, not as liberals or conservatives.
The Colorado movie massacre that left at least 12 people dead and wounded at least 59 others came in a moment of late night summer, teenage fun as young people, some dressed in campy costumes, came out for the first showings of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”
There is no fixed argument on any point of the political spectrum that offers an explanation for this kind of horror. There is no super hero to rescue us from the evil – the pre-mediated thought that went into attacking people, including children and infants, at a moment when they are engaged in such revelry, harmless fun.
This is an act of terror that violates our sense of trust in each other, our humanity, our unity as Americans. Both President Obama and his likely challenger in the 2012 presidential race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, got it right Friday when they held back on politics and used their national platforms to speak to the families of the fallen and to the wound to our national psyche.
“My daughters go to the movies,” President Obama said in Ft. Meyers, Fla. “What if Malia and Sasha had been in the theater… as so many of our kids do every day. Michelle and I will be fortunate to hug our girls a little tighter tonight.” The New York Times described his remarks as reflecting on “the fragility of life and the triviality of so much of what passes for daily existence, calling on the country to remember what really matters.”
Former Gov. Romney also focused on the human, emotional wound the nation is suffering:
“This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another.”
While both candidates struck the right tone they could not avoid the appearance of closing their eyes to the bitterness already breaking out in highly politicized fights in blogs, on Twitter and on Facebook. Opponents of gun control and supporters of gun control have already gone to their battle stations to impose their political arguments on any explanation of this tragedy. Every bit of news out of Aurora is being treated as evidence to support one side or the other in their endless and fixed crusades.
Even New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumped into the fight early on Friday morning. He condemned both President Obama and Gov. Romney for not speaking directly to the gun control issue. On his weekly radio show he said: “You know, soothing words are nice but maybe it is time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it [gun violence in America] because this is obviously a problem across the country.”
The truth is that it is difficult to have a rational conversation about gun control in the United States without spurring bitterness and recriminations from ideologues on either side. There is so much money, so many lobbyists and such deep wells of anger surrounding the issue that it is easy to lose sight of the human element and our common destiny as Americans.
In recent years America has grieved as one family over the shooting deaths at Columbine High School in Colorado, at Virginia Tech University, and at Fort Hood. Then there was the Atlanta Olympic bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing. Everyday there are too many deadly shooting incidents at work, at family events, and even at church.
The news reports will keep coming and we will learn more by the minute about the details of the Colorado movie tragedy. The candidates will return to the campaign trail. Political campaigns will resume.
But we should not lose the value of this moment of national reflection. This is who we really are: one family, hurting, not understanding all that happened, appealing to God and at our best, caring for one another across all political lines.