Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eyes Undimmed by Cynicism and Vitriol

As is often the case, President Obama had to pull off a great deal with tonight's speech. Not just because of the subject at hand, the shooting of Gabriel Giffords and several of her staff and constituents, but because of all the meta-commentary on discourse and root causes that's led up to the speech, climaxing today with Sarah Palin's "blood libel" whine.

It ran a bit long, yes, but it served its purpose of honoring the fallen and rather ingeniously pivoted off of the most famous of them--Christina Green, the nine year-old 9/11 baby who attended Giffords' Congress on Your Corner meet-up to see government in action--to implore the nation to live up to our expectations, and hers.

It's an ambitious call to action, if perhaps fuzzy; there's no objective way to measure the quality of our discourse, after all. But it is important, and gets at something that's been bothering me for a few days now.

I'm basically ready to retreat from the argument that a charged political atmosphere contributed to Jared Loughner's killing spree. The man's "brains are scrambled," and his fixation on Giffords seems to have stemmed from an exchange he had at one of her constituent meet-and-greets. Moreover, having pushed back against the idea that violent entertainment is to blame for school shootings, I don't think it consistent or fair to make such hazy arguments about "political climates." I still think Republican rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible and could prompt actual political violence, but this simply wasn't a case of it.

This isn't the first time I've backpedaled or changed my mind after making too hasty a judgment and it certainly won't be the last, but I'd like them to become less frequent. I've realized lately that reading and writing about politics tends to bring out the worst in me (such as writing about the Giffords attack without once expressing any concern or sympathy for its victims), and that most of it is superficial pith anyway. Without any wonky specialty, all I have to bring to the conversation are curated prose and punchlines. (And hopefully some clear thinking, but clarity without expertise is a pretty, empty package.)

This isn't to say that I'll stop completely writing about the news--I'm too egotistical to keep my opinions to myself--but I'd like to shift focus, or rather get a focus. There isn't any particular topic this blog singles out, and I'm not yet sure what that would be; the most popular pieces here are almost without exception the ones in which I'm getting scammed or physically attacked, and as interesting as they are I would just as soon not have to write another one anytime soon. But I do enjoy writing about my own experiences and actually doing some kind of original "journalism," so maybe that's the tack I'll take.

In any case, I'm finally starting to figure out life is too short to be constantly and impotently bitching about politics. I'll still be something of an ass--it's in the name, after all--but perhaps a new, constructive ass.

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