Thursday, January 13, 2011

A decent respect

Most of the commentary I've read today about the President's speech last night in Tucson has been favorable — and that includes comment by those usually critical of him. I didn't watch the speech. I read it this morning and it read well. A lot of dismay, though, has been directed at the behavior of the crowd made up mostly, I gather, of Arizona university students. John Podhoretz's column this morning is representative. It might have been appropriate beforehand to instruct those attending that a memorial service is not the same as a political or a sports rally.
Never before in the annals of national moments of mourning have the words spoken been so wildly mismatched by the spirit in which they were received.

The sentences and paragraphs of President Obama's speech last night were beautiful and moving and powerful. But for the most part they didn't quite transcend the wildly inappropriate setting in which he delivered them.

There was something about the choice of place, a college arena with the appropriate name of the McKale Memorial Center, that made the event turn literally sophomoric.

If there is one thing we expect from occasions of national mourning, it is, at the very least, a modicum of gravity. That gravity was present in the president's speech from first to last....

But the president's stunning speech was marred by the feeling of the evening that surrounded it and the appalling behavior of the crowd in Tucson listening to it.

It was as though no one in the arena but the immediate mourners and sufferers had the least notion of displaying respectful solemnity in the face of breathtaking loss and terrifying evil. ....

Worst of all, there was the crowd, which bubbled over with excitement and enthusiasm. The tone of the event came to resemble a pep rally, no matter the monstrous fact of the six dead and the many injured. ....

Even Obama's lovely peroration about little Christina Green — "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it" — was greeted by the listeners as though they were delegates at a political convention, rather than attendees at a memorial service. ....

There's been a great deal of talk in the wake of the massacre about the need for a national conversation about civility. Maybe what we need is a national conversation about elementary manners. [more]
The president was pitch-perfect at Arizona service, but audience members were a rabble -

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