By JULIE PACE and BEN FELLER, Associated Press Julie Pace And Ben Feller, Associated Press – 11 mins ago
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 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 a memorably dramatic moment, the president said 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. First lady Michelle Obama held hands with Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, as the news brought soaring cheers throughout the arena.
Speaking at a memorial in Tucson, 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 at the University of Arizona basketball arena — and to countless others watching around the country. "Those who died here, those who saved lives 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 is entirely up to us."
In crafting his comments, Obama clearly sought a turning point in the raw debate that has defined national politics. After offering personal accounts of every person who died, he challenged anyone listening to think of how to honor their memories, and he was not shy about offering direction. He railed against any instinct to point blame or to drift into political pettiness or to latch onto simple explanations that may have no merit.
"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds," the president said.
That last, italicized quote by President Obama is lofty and noble in nature, and I cannot say enough about the rightness of it, but there's one small, teensy little problem here. It does not take into account the fact that one side in this fractured discourse of ours is defiantly antagonistic towards any meaningful level of reconciliation and mutual understanding and for all intents and purposes have absolutely no inclination to learn from this incident and make positive adjustments in their attitudes and actions.
I offer as proof (just from these past few days since the Tucson tragedy):
And if you need even more proof:
It's a one-way conversation in dealing with these people. I see no evidence they acknowledge the seriousness of the issue or that they even care.
How are we to proceed with Obama's vision of national soulful reflection and compassion when one side is standing on the sidelines, making sure we all know that they are armed to the teeth, waving their Don't Tread On Me flags and sticking their middle fingers in the air?
I'm open to suggestions because by all the available evidence at hand, changing the mindset of these right-wing radicals is nothing short of a Sisyphean task.