TUCSON, Ariz. – Summoning the soul of a nation, President Barack Obama on Wednesday implored Americans to honor those slain and injured in the Arizona shootings by becoming better people, telling a polarized citizenry that it is time to talk with each other “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” Following a hospital bedside visit with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the assassination, he said: “She knows we’re here, and she knows we love her.”
In an electrifying moment, the president revealed that Giffords, who on Saturday was shot point-blank in the head, had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after his hospital visit. Firstlady Michelle Obama held hands with Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, as the news brought soaring cheers from thousands gathered for a memorial service.
Obama bluntly conceded that there is no way to know what triggered the shooting rampage that left six people dead, 13 others wounded and the nation shaken. He tried instead to leave indelible memories of the people who were gunned down, and to rally the country to use the moment as a reflection on the nation’s behavior and compassion.
“I believe we can be better,” Obama said to a capacity crowd in the university’s basketball arena and to countless others watching around the country.
“Those who died here, those who saved lives here — they help me believe,” the president said. “We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.”
I’m sure in the coming days we’ll have much nonsense about how Obama politicized the event by existing, and the Sunday shows will be all about how the president of the United States should eschew politics entirely for the good of David Broder’s arousal, but for now, people seem to be remembering that having a head of state who isn’t a deranged sociopath mouthing nonsense about the axis of evil is a good thing.
It would be nice if, more often, reality could trump the need to scribble down every vile whisper from the wingnut noise machine.