Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tucson Shooting, Barbarian Grief

Melissa Clouthier 's  'Caught In A Device Of His Own Making: President Obama Gives His Best Speech In The Worst Way' (  : 

You know the formerly fat chick who diets down, gets fit and then keeps the attitude and wears clothes as though she were still heavy? That was President Obama’s speech last night. The tone and content of the speech felt right, but the attitude of the left and venue of the memorial service was all wrong.

For two years, President Obama hasn’t quite mastered the art of Presiding or leading or even sounding Presidential. He’s walked out on press conferences. He’s had to have beer summits to repair intemperate remarks. He’s given inappropriate gifts. He’s seemed distant and disjointed behind the scenes and when trying to connect with voters. His domestic policy has been so partisan as to force Americans, en masse, to vote in a whole slew of Republicans.

And then, the Giffords shooting happened; tragedy beset Arizona and the Nation.

President Obama and his team had a couple days to prepare themselves for this speech and prepare, they did. They created a logo and T-shirts. They picked a venue that could pack as many of his voters into one place as possible in Tucson–the University of Arizona stadium. They had a cheerleader, a positively giddy one, President of the College, Robert N. Shelton introduce the speakers like he was the ringleader for the WWE and this event was Monday Night Raw. And the adoring fans cheered. They cheered non-stop and inappropriately, but I repeat myself.

Surrounding a clearly stricken President Obama were the devastated survivors, mourning family members, and heart-broken friends of the lost or wounded. They stoically sat in the sea of frivolity with their pain written on their faces.

The contrast was jarring to watch. It felt wildly inappropriate. It was rather embarrassing in a skin-crawling, get-me-out-of-here way. I wanted to turn off the “show”, but forced myself to hang in there because I wanted to hear the President’s words. He and his wife Michelle’s expression matched my personal emotions and so I had hope that the speech would be comforting.

Before his speech, though, Governor Brewer spoke, and was booed. My thoughts were: Have these young people been taught nothing of dignity and grace? Do they not know the simple rules of etiquette and manners in a time such as this? Shame on their parents! And shame on the President of the school for not setting the ground-rules before the evening. But really, in this day and age, shame on the Obama crew for expecting anything else from the indulged children they invited into the memorial that was supposed to be about the fallen and the heroes, not the President and not U of A.

So, President Obama spoke. The rousing intro he received clashed with the tone of the speech and to his credit, President Obama looked uncomfortable with the callous display. The adoration was too overt. The stagecraft was off. He was trying to be somber while the crowd was too high on the ecstasy of having the Rock Star President in their very midst. They were ebullient.

President Obama’s speech was beautiful. The words were chosen perfectly. The individual attention to those lost and the telling of their stories gave them honor. I was moved to tears. For the first time in his Presidency, I felt the President sounded, looked and most importantly, acted Presidential. He acted like a President should act. His presence instilled confidence. His words bestowed grace. His kindness to those around him gave them comfort.

In a cathedral or mission or some sort of religious venue, the impact would have been more profound. Instead, President Obama’s speech fought against the tension of being in the center ring of a campaign circus. The viewer could not relax into the moment. The cheering, blue-clad adoring hordes wouldn’t allow it.

And so, making the speech on the backdrop of a campaign spot undermined the messenger. The viewers got the messages alright. Tucson loves Janet Napolitano. Tucson most certainly does not love Jan Brewer. (This bitter welcome stood in stark contrast with the words encouraging unity and civility as the Democratic audience lacked both.) Tucson loves University of Arizona. Tucson loves Mother Gaia and what’s under the earth. And they love President Obama, man. They dig him. He’s a righteous dude.

If you’re wondering how Tucson felt about those who died and lost, it’s understandable. It seemed that the ones focused on that grief had the floor seats. Many crest-fallen faces were there. It was obvious, they needed this memorial. I hope they found comfort in the service.

President Obama’s best speech had the misfortune of competing with the worst venue possible. It was a tactical and practical error. I don’t know if President Obama just didn’t want to speak in a religious place. I don’t know if his advisers saw a great marketing and campaign opportunity. I don’t know what they were thinking or if they were thinking at all.

It’s unfortunate. Because while the President’s words were powerful, the meta message was at least as powerful. It’s difficult to take someone seriously–to believe it’s about a memorial and about the lost–when the environment is all about The One. It is difficult to hear the words calling for civil discourse when the crowd boos their ideological opposition and the media and political left (both supporters of the President) have demonized their opposition.

I think President Obama realized that by crafting this moment in this way, it undermined him.

The speech, both the words and delivery, were the best the President has ever given. Like much of this presidency, it feels like one more opportunity lost.
Many felt I should have been more critical last night, but I simply couldn’t. This was the time for the families to grieve and mourn. Plus, I felt the speech was good. Some expressed umbrage that I was judging how someone else was grieving. Puhleeze. These young people lacked decorum, pure and simple. Enabling their misbehavior only misses a teachable moment. You know how fond the left is of those.
I don't agree with all of the above, but it's vastly above the partisan whining and of most Tucson Shooting related commentary/spew from the Right or the Left (phrases that mean less - especially as related to 'Conservative' and 'Liberal' - every year for a number of decades, now).  The shooter read from classics and arcana of the totalitarian socialist Left and Right, from strange crossroads of Librtarianism, hard currency advocacy, and (allegedly) Christian Dominionism; from (alleged) science in the pursuit of giving over his capacity for personal responsibility to thelemic fantasy.

It's not about Obama's empty promises or usually too cold-&-dry affect.  It's not about Palin and the Teeps's essence and priority centered in a maelstrom of defensive self-imagery of saintly martyrdom.  The Tucson Shooting was not about their hypocrisies or jumping on bandwagons or war wagons in the name of Rep. Giffords, a moderate whose voting record has no doubt been unsettling to both sides and is for now so (perforce) conveniently quiet admidst their shameless monkey screechings.  It was not about vying for points.

The memorial was not partisan, but was centered in the same INFANTILE NARCISSISM and WOUNDED SELF-RIGHTEOUS HIVE-BEING MENTALITY as the loathesomely reflexive  partisan pixel pundits. 

I still shudder to remember the aggressive sectarian riffs of Franklin Graham at the Columbine Memorial and of some mullahs at the 911 Memorial, and Nikki Giovanni's 'we are V-Tech, and we will survive!' chant, but this so-called Tucson Memorial was scarely anything but a PEP RALLY from start to finish.  I will not be in the least surprised if the next 'memorial' (and you know there will be one) has pom-pom girls screaming out victim-names to spell in stadium call-and-response:  'gimme a G!'  The clapping, whooping and noisemakers are already in.  Thinking of the film, The Queen?  I remember when the Brits (before drugs and multiculturalism) were considered the best-mannered people in the world, but now... Maybe the next royal funeral will feature event souvenir T-shirts; maybe rattles and airhorns and big foam pointy-fingered hands to show the ol' team spirit (like, this thing  has really FN bummed me bad, dude!  I'm Wounded Too!!) in Westminister Cathedral - but we'll probably beat them to it.  I hope we don't take up the 'rave' style of terrorist funerals (bouncing around the coffin like a beach ball at a rock concert).  ...Do we even have a non-commercial holi-/memorial day?           

And it wasn't just 'young people'.  POTUS 'might oughta' have calmed them down more, but the nature of the thing as rah-rah whoop-de-do was already fixed.  What the hell made a grey-haired physician giving the 'blessing' spend more time on his own intro than the invocation?  What made the president of a university mistake himself for the warm-up MC of a halftime show?  Why do we all keep buying in to this manic rabid barbarianism?  If we don't go back to YES, CIVILITY, and teach (and demand) old-style behaviors of respect, decorum, soberness, solemnity, dignity, and most of all a proper sense of those occasions when IT'S NOT ABOUT US, IT'S ABOUT THEM, we'll keep sliding toward the same hopelessly festered mentality of the shooter.


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