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On Handling Negativity in Politics and the News

01.14.11

The aftermath of the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords sure has lit up the blogosphere, the Twittersphere, the Facebook-o-sphere, and the 24-hour-news cycle with those pointing to violent political rhetoric as being a factor to those vehemently defending the rhetoric with as much vitriol as was blamed.

And then there’s the average person.

Only the truly radical, extreme, unbalanced people in the world could’ve ever wanted a tragedy like this to happen.  That means that all of us, including those who engaged in the harshest debate with other candidates or public officials, find this event heartbreaking, appalling, and absolutely condemnable.  While not something remotely wanted, it is something we can all agree on regardless of our political affiliations.

But, it won’t last long.  If it lasted at all.

After 9/11, there was a palpable unity amongst Americans.  We all felt attacked.  We all felt connected.  We all knew someone who knew someone in New York.  We all felt that some sort of recourse needed to be made, no matter which party we tended to vote for.

I didn’t sense that after Saturday’s atrocities.  Almost instantly, and understandably, there were people pointing out the dangers of such a toxic political climate.  And, as expected, the defense came nearly as quickly.  Never was there that moment where everyone just shook their head in shame and pity and disbelief at the horrors of innocent people being gunned down in the middle of the day, in the parking lot of a supermarket.

It’s because the villain this time isn’t some faceless foreigner.  It’s one of our own.  It’s an American. And it wasn’t an attack on America in the symbolic sense — it was an attack on America in its most personal sense: that of a Congresswoman and those Americans expressing their civil freedoms that America provides.  While there were people of all races and nationalities and political affiliations in the World Trade Center, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was a Democrat who had just gotten done running a successful re-election campaign that saw her being attacked – both physically and psychologically – from her opponents on the other side of the political divide.

Naturally the reactions were going to be what they were.

You’ve got those on the left blaming the right and their rhetoric.  And then you have the right pointing fingers at the left for blaming the right.  And in the middle – or even on the far sides, even – there are those of us who just want it all end.

It’s exhausting and it’s depressing.  Every now and then, I get to the point where I think about just being done writing this blog.  What good comes of it?  It’s rarely positive in any sense.  Even the positives are spun to be not enough, while the negatives are nation-ending decisions.  Rarely do you hear more smug, know-it-all people than you do when talking politics — everyone’s an expert and everyone loves making it known that you’re wrong more than they love finding out what’s right.  And it’s almost always with things that aren’t easily proven one way or another.

Even writing this, I can’t help but think that there will be someone who reads it with their cynical mind, smirking at what I’m writing and finding naive idealism in it or who knows what else that shows that I just don’t have the think skin for politics or I just don’t know how the real world works.  But, I don’t care about those people.  I don’t have the energy for it.  If you want to take pleasure in the negativity, then it’s all yours.

The tragic events in Tucson didn’t change my way of thinking.  It just reaffirmed it.  I’m interested in positive, ambitious people who care more about the intangible ways that make life worth living rather than those only about personal gain and monetary wealth.  I’m interested in facts.  I’m interested in learning.  I’m interested in ideas and new perspectives.  I’m interested in people with humility and patience and understanding.

I won’t always be positive.  I won’t always be right.  I won’t always be the bigger person.  I’m human.  And I know that’s how we all are.  But I will try to be all those things more than not.  Because no matter how much we may disagree on things, we all want the same thing: to live in a better world than we were given.

So really, we’re all on the same side.

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