I am a man of the liberal persuasion, and so my favorite blogs, my twitter feed and my facebook account are filled with cries for change, calls for legislation, claims that now we must act to halt the spread of these weapons. To delay, they say, is wrong, a betrayal of the dead. To argue we must not politicize a tragedy is to politicize the tragedy. "We" must not let "them" delay or defer the cause of justice. If Mike Huckabee is any indication, it's much the same among more conservative circles.
I gently but firmly ask for a pause. I love politics. I understand these impulses and I sympathize with them. But I also want some time--time to see and time to learn.
I worry that when we rush like this, when we talk like this, when we demand politics, we diminish political life. After all, our fellow citizens suffered and died today. We do not know them but we share a life with them, one familiar in many of its outlines--a school, its teachers, their students, our students. We may not have walked those halls, but we've walked such halls. We may not know them, but we know of them. They are ours, our friends and fellows in the continuing journey of this nation. Before we cry for action in their names, perhaps we should see them and learn of them--their names, their lives, their dreams and cares.
Much as I love rhetoric, when we use tragedies like these as evidence, as "supporting materials" for "larger" claims, we inevitably diminish those who have died. There will undoubtedly be a time for that, as sad as it will be. But now is the time to grant our friends and fellows, our children, their own integrity, to see their lives as they lived them, to feel a loss and mourn the deaths and wonder at the courage and try--try--to ease an unimaginable pain.
There will always be bills, there will always be speeches, there will always be debate, and anger, and charge, and countercharge and us and them. If only for a time, let there also be peace in our hearts, love for our friends, grace for the suffering, and hope for the pained. Amen.