Christina Green

Obama’s speech at the Tucson memorial

President Barack Obama gave a beautiful and heartwarming speech at the University of Arizona Wednesday night that honoured, personalized and celebrated the victims of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson. He introduced to the world the victims who, for the most part, have so far gone nameless, like New Jersey native Phyllis Schneck, who retired to Tucson to beat the snow, and would sew aprons with logos of the Jets or Giants to give to the church where she volunteered; like Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard, who grew up in Tucson together about 70 years ago, moved apart and started their own respective families and, after each becoming widowed, came together to “be boyfriend and girlfriend again,” as one of Mavy’s daughters put it.

Obama also reiterated — in a way that just felt genuine and sincere, unlike so much glossy rhetoric — the need to be civil following situations like this, the need to “to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

An excerpt:

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better.  To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents.  And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.

We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American Dream to future generations.

They believed — they believed, and I believe that we can be better.  Those who died here, those who saved life here –- they help me believe.  We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that’s entirely up to us.

And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.

Imagine — imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council.  She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it.  I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

This speech could not have been any better.

Read a full transcript of President Obama’s remarks here.

WikiLeaks calls for Sarah Palin’s arrest

Considering WikiLeaks, politics and the Arizona shooting are all topics I am interested in, you’d think I would find a combination of the three interesting. Instead, the result is a sad and pathetic smash-up, an inappropriate attempt by WikiLeaks to draw attention to the organization by exploiting a high-profile tragedy.

The whistle-blowing website’s official Twitter account released a statement Monday night calling for authorities to “treat incitement seriously or expect more Gabrielle Gifford (sic) killing sprees.” (I find the mere reference to Giffords in this title appalling and shameful.) The call comes after a media shit-storm surrounding Palin’s “crosshairs graphic” that has arguably (and sadly) generated as much, if not more, attention than the shooting itself.

An exerpt from the press release:

Tucson Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, leading the investigation into the Gifford shooting, said that “vitriolic rhetoric” intended to “inflame the public on a daily basis … has [an] impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.” Dupnik also observed that officials and media personalities engaging in violent rhetoric “have to consider that they have some responsibility when incidents like this occur and may occur in the future.”

WikiLeaks staff and contributors have also been the target of unprecedented violent rhetoric by US prominent media personalities, including Sarah Palin, who urged the US administration to “Hunt down the WikiLeaks chief like the Taliban”. Prominent US politician Mike Huckabee called for the execution of WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange on his Fox News program last November, and Fox News commentator Bob Beckel, referring to Assange, publicly called for people to “illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” US radio personality Rush Limbaugh has called for pressure to “Give [Fox News President Roger] Ailes the order and [then] there is no Assange, I’ll guarantee you, and there will be no fingerprints on it.”, while the Washington Times columnist Jeffery T. Kuhner titled his column “Assassinate Assange” captioned with a picture Julian Assange overlayed with a gun site, blood spatters, and “WANTED DEAD or ALIVE” with the alive crossed out.

Before I proceed, a few things I think:

  • WikiLeaks is an important site that has made a definitive impact on the way we gather news and disseminate information and its impact and influence will continue to have an effect into the forseeable future. (The release of sensitive information, however, DOES need regulation.)
  • Julian Assange should not be killed or harshly prosecuted for a crime an average Joe wouldn’t receive the same punishment for.
  • Sarah Palin’s graphic is wholly inappropriate, especially for someone who has talked of one day running for president of the U.S.
  • Palin’s graphic didn’t CAUSE gunman Jared Lee Loughner to do what he did in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday. There is no proof of this.
  • It is absolutely appalling for WikiLeaks — an organization I thought would have been a little better equipped to deal with mass media by now — to piggy-back off the tragedy and call attention to itself.

Here is the WikiLeaks press release in its entirety. To me, it reads like this:

“We offer our condolences to the victims of the Tucson shooting. It was probably caused by violent rhetoric. We at WikiLeaks have also been victims of that. In fact, Sarah Palin wants WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange killed. Mike Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh and all these other people want Assange killed too. WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks, Wikileaks. Arrest all these people. Long live WikiLeaks.”

They then link to a website succinctly titled People OK with Murdering Assange.

This is not the time for this. I like you a lot, WikiLeaks. But you lost on this one.

On Palin and the Arizona shooting

Sarah Palin's graphic of 20 House Democrats, including Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, in crosshairs. Palin removed the image from her website Saturday after a gunman in Arizona killed six and injured 14, including Giffords, who was shot in the head.

I’ve been following the Arizona shooting story with sadness and bewilderment. There have been mind-boggling responses from left to right, contributing to a massive shit-storm in which the main messages are lost.

Sarah Palin did not cause this shooting spree; nor is she free of guilt.

The issue regarding Palin’s “crosshairs graphic,” pictured above, it that it is entirely inappropriate for the former Alaskan governor and past vice-presidential hopeful — someone who has spoken of running for PRESIDENT of the U.S. — to run on gun/violence-fueled campaign ads, imagery and slogans. “Violent rhetoric” is the term being used.

A March 23 tweet by Sarah Palin

To say that she caused the Arizona tragedy is ridiculous — almost as ridiculous as Palin aide Rebecca Mansour saying there is “nothing irresponsible about our graphic,” the crosshairs had nothing to do with violence, and rather they’re simply “crosshairs that you would see on a map” (???).

Giffords said in an interview back in March, when the graphic was released, that “when people do that, there’s consequences to that action.”

Following Saturday’s shooting, the graphic was removed from Palin’s website and some questionable “violent rhetoric” was scrubbed. (The “Don’t Retreat – Instead RELOAD!” tweet remains.)

Palin issued a pretty feeble statement via Facebook, saying only:

My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona.

On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.

This all said, the Palin connection is not — or at least should not — be THE story of this tragedy — that would be 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opening fire at Giffords’ meeting with constituents outside a Safeway in Tucson, killing six and injuring 14. One of the people who died was nine-year-old Christina Green, a children’s charity volunteer who was just elected to student council, who had gone to the event to “learn more about politics” and one day wanted to serve her country, according to her mother, Roxanna Green. She was also a 9/11 baby, a “Face of Hope” following the fall of the Twin Towers.

For anyone to attempt to gain political points from this tragedy is foul, but it would also be remiss not to address the connection. The fact the graphic was taken down is also a validation of sorts: Is this what it took for the Palin clan to realize it was inappropriate?

On a side note, it was reckless of people to automatically play up a possible political motive yesterday, immediately after the shooting occurred, and give more weight than deserved to the fact Loughner had a “mental illness” — a broad term that, by definition, I’m willing to wager most of us have in one form or another.

Related:

  • The New York Times’ live-blog on the shooting
  • Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube channel