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Moments upon moments

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JANUARY 18, 2011 7:10 AM

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Well, that was quite the week and a half, wasn’t it? (And if you didn’t think so, I’m rather impressed by the strength of your bubble. Where can I get one?)

Who knew that the attempted assassination of a congresswoman, the shooting deaths of six people, and the wounding of 12 others in Tucson would spark such as extraordinary wall of invective from both sides of the political aisle?

(Well, OK, given the last two years, and not to mention any names, maybe that’s not so hard to predict. I’m not sure what that says about this country. But I’m pretty sure it’s not all that good.)

On my computer at work, I used to have an mind-boggling photo of a 2,000-foot sandstorm bearing down on a refugee camp in Darfur (courtesy of the Los Angeles Times); the sandstorm covered the whole computer screen on the left, an immense, dense mass of roiling black and brown trouble, lightning flashing every which way; in the center and right, under a bright blue sky on red-stone earth, the human beings struggling to hold down their tarpaulin shelters among bare thicket trees were around an eighth of an inch tall as they attempted to get a bit of shelter from the storm about to hit.

The photo stunned everyone who viewed it into utter silence. What could you possibly say?

That screech of political shouting back and forth after the Tucson shootings reminded me of that sandstorm — a mass of chaos bearing down on people who accidentally live in the way.

Which, if you think about it, is how most of the mass of humanity lives — you’re just living your life, getting by, and then along comes a sandstorm.

And then, on Jan. 12, President Obama stepped up and finally sounded like the president we thought we had elected. It was a magnificent speech, and I watched it in something that felt a lot like awe — saying to myself, Where’s this guy been all this time? Who’s been keeping him a prisoner?

Well, only Obama knows that.

So, in the spirit of Obama’s speech, I’m not going to mention a certain woman. She knows who she is.

On Jan. 12, two political figures spoke. One gave us the best political speech since the days of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a speech that in sorrow, urged us to unite in hope for the future.

The other employed a centuries-old slur, one that goes back to 1144 in England, against Jewish people.

As John Weaver, a former political adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Obama’s opponent in 2008, wrote on Facebook: “The president had exactly the right tone and was pitch-perfect for the nation last night. And, when juxtaposed against … well, you know who … ahem.”

I just wonder, if there is a new spirit of civility, if we stop treating politics and policymaking as NFL contests or Major League Baseball games.

And I wonder, instead of treating each other more civililty, how about treating each other more humanely?

Because there are a lot of sandstorms in this life, and we each, no matter how tough or brave or independent we think we are, have only these measly tarpaulins for shelter. Which ain’t all that much.

That, and each other.

It’ll have to be enough.


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