A Shooting in Arizona

Posted on January 12, 2011

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On Saturday, I proctored the WEST-B, a test used by Washington State to certify teachers. I started work at 6:30 AM, and didn’t get home until 3:30 PM. That’s when the news about the shooting of Rep. Giffords overwhelmed me.

I waited. I know that the initial news cycles will be short on information and long on speculation. I know that demagogues seize every opportunity to grind their peculiar axes. I hope, always, for the appearance of reasonable people speaking from positions of compassion and courage. I read a lot of opinions and news stories.

Now my wait is over. I want to talk about class. I don’t mean that in the scholastic sense (despite what I did last Saturday), nor do I mean it in the sense of societal group. I mean it in the sense of style. Not the hoity-toity sense of the nouveau riche, but rather in the sense we mean when we say that someone who acts decently and earns our respect has class. I have seen little from any part of the political spectrum in the United States, and everyone, from the most common voter to the President should be ashamed. I know that I am.

Class would mean not using a tragedy for political or personal gain (I’m looking at you Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, et al). Class would mean speaking out in compassion for those suffering in the wake of the shooting (I’m looking at every news agency in America that failed to cover the President’s compassionate response). Class would mean expressing sorrow that mentally disturbed individuals cannot differentiate between political rhetoric and a call to arms, and then establishing or supporting a charity rather than cleaning up your web presence (I’m looking at you, Sarah Palin). Class would mean letting the victims, including families of those present, mourn, and respecting their privacy while they did so.

Class means taking a deep, preparatory, breath. It means asking ourselves, “If I was brave, and if I felt love for those affected, what would I do?” Then do it – even if that means being a tiny voice for rationality, courage, compassion, and, yes, class.

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Posted in: Leadership