The Tucson Shootings and Civility
Civility in Tucson?
Surprised by the focus on civility during Tucson's memorial service for its shooting victims, I found that the reality of their injuries and deaths made it difficult for me to put the heart of the point out of my mind. I tried to ignore the speech and I even made excuses for not talking or writing about it at the time.
When I heard the comments about civility my first thought was that they were just too absurd to respond to. Try as I might, I could not wrap my mind around the callousness regarding the tragedy.
Publicly or privately, somebody brought the topic of civility up every day after it was first mentioned in those early weeks of the attack. I told myself to focus on other things for I didn’t want to come close to openly disrespecting the leader of our country.
“What’s to respect?” some may ask. Well, the thing is, it’s not about any particular leader, it’s about how God instructs us regarding leadership even though so many of them make it dreadfully difficult to respond respectfully to what they say and do.
What God has to say about leadership, however, is significant. It's substance for an entire series of posts, actually. Many have written well about it, and I doubt that I will do more, but I try not to forget the truth of what I know on that topic.
The focus of this hub is to highlight the concept of civility that was used with such precision during the Tucson memorial service for the shooting victims. Bashing a leader is not my goal, but as an American I have the right and responsibility to speak up when it is important to do so.
Everyone has a Response to the Tragedy of the Tucson Shootings but the Issues are not About Civility
The crux of the carefulness with which I try to write is that I want to honor what God says. He gave me belief in His Word and He then gave me enough experience to cause me to trust Him even more. I have learned that God is not passive. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, there is a time to be still and a time to respond.
The fact that the term “civility” began and ended so many conversation since that memorial service has compelled me to speak up. Much of what I hear about that word is right, some not so much, but I’ve not heard anyone give a direct answer to the way it was used in the sad excuse for a memorial ceremony speech in which the many dead were treated so lightly and their families’ horror, loss, and grief were taken advantage of for blatant purposes of political persuasion.
Among others, a beautiful young girl died at the hands of a murderer that day and I want to know why that indicates that I need to be more civil. I did not murder that precious child. If I were to cast my mind about to try to blame someone other than the one who did it or to foolishly try to find excuses for the murderer, I think I would begin with those who took God out of the equation of that person’s education and entertainment.
It would be futile, though, because in this country, even today, long after the printed 10 Commandments were taken from the walls of our schools, hospitals, and other public buildings, people still know that one. Everyone knows that it is wrong, as in ultimate-crime wrong, to kill other people, especially little girls. She knew it, Tucson knew it, and most certainly the man who chose to do it knew it.
That criminal chose to do what he did that day and he should have been swiftly judged for his decision, both because he earned the judgement and because the example of his judgement is needed by other criminals. As well, our nation needed the judgement to be swift as part of its healing. I am reminded of yet more words from Ecclesiastes, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
For Tucson's Youngest Victim
What Should be Said About the Civility Discussion Applied to this Tragedy?
All that is not to say that for decent people there would be any real satisfaction in this man being swiftly executed--nay, not at all. It is to say, though, that there is a safety factor related to the process of our healing from such great sins against humanity.
We would all be safer if this man were permanently prevented from any possibility of ever doing such a thing in any place again, and we would be safer if the example of a swift execution were allowed to speak to the relatively small number of other people who might consider doing such a despicable thing in the future.
Still, what does this specific evil man’s actions have to do with you or me needing to be more civil? How did I cause this man to make his choices? Sorry--I’m not buying that story. I did not kill these people, and neither did you. Urgent debates about health care, vehement debates in recent elections, noisy talk show hosts did not, nor, once again, did “we” murder that little girl.
Incivility did not kill her, or wound other people, or grieve the citizens of this nation on that tragic day. One evil man made the choices that motivated him to kill. Even if he had a bad childhood, or a disability, or a mean teacher, or any number of other things that many, many other people have suffered, he is still the one who made the choices he made that day. Incivility in America did not do that deed. We are not perfect, but on an elementary level Americans know that this was wrong in the biggest sense of the word.
Nothing in me feels civil toward that murderer. As uncivil as it may seem to the reckless mind, I wouldn’t complain if he had been shot on the spot for his fiendish work since there is no question of his responsibility. However, I am thankful for the system of justice that we have in this country because it is a good effort to help keep us from responding according to our feelings in the heat of a moment and thereby making serious mistakes along the way.
By the same token, and in case I have not made it clear, nothing in me feels civil toward being blamed for that murderer’s choices to shoot, injure, and kill his victims in Tucson that sad day. It's important to think the issues through. I’m thankful to live in a country where it is possible to appropriately discuss the wrongness of being blamed for that murderer's actions. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments below.