Yesterday in Arizona

Terrible news, as I’m sure you all know, from Arizona: a mass shooting, centered on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She is in critical condition (after falsely being declared dead in several media outlets, and particularly NPR) but six others, including a federal judge, are dead. Time to pray for the living and the dead.

But I’ve heard too many pre-emptive suggestions that people should not “get political.” That is impossible: the intended target was a member of Congress, and follows an electoral season with bulls’-eye target ads and — this is more important — sloppy, stirred-up and violent electioneering. Yesterday’s shooting, whatever the state, condition or number of its plotters, was inherently political.

And worse, there’s a make-nice tendency, especially but not exclusively in the middle-class center left to say that everyone’s guilty of this behavior and we should all do a better job of being civil. Since this is a key Unitarian Universalist demographic, let me preach. A cheap equivocation extinguishes the search for answers and avoids a meaningful resolution. Polite falsehoods and easy words are fine for cocktail party chit-chat, but foster a festering wound in a divided nation. Now, we need candor.

Let’s start with the rhetorical; we’ll return to other matters later.

No, not everyone resorts to figurative fist-shaking. Some people can finish a sentence about national legislation without injecting the word death. Some players are worse than others, and shouldn’t be shocked if an unstable or unsettled person starts shooting. It’s happened before — in a Unitarian Universalist congregation, no less — and fear it’ll happen again. And I fear this is only the opening fever to a long era of political stagnation and popular malaise.

The instinct to care for the dead and injured, and their families and ken, shouldn’t stop frank discussion about the miserable state we have in United States politics.

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