Tragedy in Colorado hits close to home

Having grown up in Colorado, the news this summer has been especially tough. First the devastating fires that took so many homes, including that of a woman I know who graduated from my high school the same year I did. Yet the sucker punch that followed the fires is the travesty that stays with me.

The other night Michael Moore appeared on CNN. Now, I realize Mr. Moore’s politics are not everybody’s cup of tea, but that night he came closer to the truth than anyone I’ve heard speak about the shootings in Aurora since it happened.

Regardless of your political leanings, what we can gain from that interview makes sense.

We already know the debate about guns is beyond divisive. There will never be universal agreement. That’s probably the one thing we DO agree upon. So rather than further that debate here because, frankly, we’re all pretty sick of it, perhaps we need to tack in a different direction.

Moore talked of President Obama, how he came before the microphones the day after the shootings to offer comfort. Bringing into the discussion his own children, the president said his two daughters go to the movies and asked, “What if it were them?” Moore extrapolates that comment into a conversation that took my breath away.

“What if it WERE them?” Moore asked in a rhetorical question aimed at the president. “What if it WERE them last Thursday night? Would you stand at the microphone and say, ‘I feel your pain?’

“You and I,” continued Moore, speaking of the collective “you,” “ – we have to see these young people (who were killed or injured) as OUR children. We have to see that we are part of each other…”

We are missing that element in today’s politically charged climate. Sure, we supply aid for worldwide devastation, be it earthquakes, tornadoes or AIDS in Africa. Look how generous we are! Money, money, money flooding into ravaged areas. But the thing that keeps occurring right here – the senseless taking of innocent lives – we seem powerless to change.

Without giving it a name, Moore brought up something I read about a decade ago in a critical thinking class at San Jose State called “Triumphalism,” and it isn’t pretty, friends. I learned about the concept via an article in The Atlantic Monthly (May 2003) by Bernard Lewis, titled “I’m Right, You’re Wrong, Go to Hell.” Although the article concerned religious intolerance, the same attitude can be applied to politics today.

We don’t see discussions among our elected officials; we see grandstanding and monologues about why one party is right and any conflicting point of view is wrong. It’s little wonder the greater populace is following the example set by politicians.

I’d like to think someday we’ll remember the spirit of cooperation that made our country great. We still find glimpses of it when natural disasters occur. At least for a little while. But when it comes to certain issues, we fail to recall how to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. We’ve forgotten that when everyone gives a little, we might remember how to find compromise for the greater good.

As Michael Moore expressed it the other night: “We have to see that we’re part of each other, and we have to take care of each other. That is not our mentality. Our mentality is, ‘I got mine, you get yours and the hell with everybody else! At least I wasn’t at that theater!’ We have to stop this (attitude). We have to realize those were OUR children that were killed there…”

What I like about this message is that the usual diatribes are missing. It’s a plea for cooperation. It calls for the resurrection of our humanity toward one another, to care something about what someone else believes. It’s not about weapons, or less or greater regulation, the lack of funding for mental health or whether everyone in America should be armed. It’s not about Second Amendment rights or evil or mentally disturbed people finding other ways to kill us if that’s what they are bent on doing.

It’s not about gun control, friends. It’s about us.

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