Making the connection between the shootings in Arizona this
past weekend and the ever steady increase in hyperbole and vitriol
in political communication is an apples and oranges comparison.
This is true, I fully agree.
So, apples and oranges. Of course I love me a good metaphor so I thought I’d delve into this today. First off lets look at the apple, dangling there…round, robust,
easy to spot…blood red, the color, no accidental metaphor. It’s tragic when life is lost.
Do you know what I felt when I heard that Congresswoman Giffords was shot? I felt a surface level of shock and sad. It was an “I hate when bad things happen” feeling. I don’t know this woman and I’m terribly sad at both the injury and it’s cause but I was not moved to tears at that moment. This is self defense for the soul, I think. If it’s not an immediate relationship it makes sense that we’d need more information to get
to the deeper sense of loss.
What brought real emotion for the first time to me, however, was not hearing about Congresswoman Giffords life, family, career, medical condition. It was commentary
and speculation about the event, not the person. I admit, it was a tremendously selfish feeling for me. I recognize that.
I recognize that I felt emotion because I was afraid, FOR ME. I tried to remind myself and others around me that we are talking about humans here, loss of life and limb. It was a good instinct, I wish I had done better to stay there.
This is where the oranges began to dominate the media. Oh, that cheeky orange…not as bitter as the lemon or grapefruit, making it far more popular, making it less a fruit
adding taste to other dishes and more a stand alone snack. All that ascorbic acid working it’s magic in my tissues.
This dialogue is important, it could so easily be the panacea we all need and desire
in a world populated by viruses. And yet…as we consume that orange we lose sight of the apple altogether, we begin to say outrageous things to one another, we insist the orange is the apple, the orange is more important than the apple, the orange gave
birth to the apple and we do it in a way that is toxic, floods the very air we breathe with the pollution we all bemoan.
It’s easy to get confused, to get emotional, to get defensive. These are all
easy things to achieve in a media heavy society. Here are a few clear things:
The apple is the apple…people were shot and injured or killed this weekend. What if we take a moment to breathe that in? It’s not a sweet smelling air but it is clean and it is true. This air ought to bring tears to us because a loss is there and I think we all know loss.
The orange is an orange…too much of a good thing is poison. We’ve been consuming so much of this acid it’s become a canker to us. Dialogue is good, engagement is good.
Speak to one another with discernment and with love and you will find the vitamin C doing what it’s meant to do but pepper that dialogue with judgement and defensiveness and watch it turn sour in your mouth, burn holes in your skin.
I agree that it would be foolish to assume that this attack is a direct result of the way we speak to each other in perhaps any realm, IF we are coming from a place of isolation. If we live in a place either metaphorically or literally in which we are so limited that we take in only what we mean to take in, that we affect only what we intend to affect, well then yes, there is absolutely no way to connect the event with the atmosphere. We create this atmosphere however. We all breathe the
air we create.
This could send me off into a tangent on climate change but I’d rather not piss off ALL of my friends in one fell swoop so I’ll save that for another day. No, my point today is not that apples and oranges are different altogether because in truth, they are not. They have a shared relationship obviously; both fruits, both provide nourishment, both satisfy a hunger beyond nourishment, both perishable, capable of becoming rancid, capable of making us sick.
My point today is that we are not isolated, we do not only consume that which is good for us, only consume what we want to consume. No one has that level of purity. It’s no surprise that so many of us jumped from the apple to the orange so quickly. This is what is on our collective mind, our national sixth sense.
If you felt outrage because of the vitriolic talk in politics, graphics on websites, commentary on Facebook then it’s because you were already angry about it, before Congresswoman Giffords was shot. If you felt defensive and angry because of the accusations toward media members or politicians in the wake of this tragedy
then it’s because you already were defensive and angry about it, before Congresswoman Giffords was shot.
We were primed and ready for this. I hope we’re ready to enter into real dialogue about cleaning up our atmosphere, agreeing that it’s time for us as a nation to grow the hell up.
Let’s be angry and sad about the loss of life and limb. Let’s rally together and lift up the families and friends of those injured or killed. Let’s celebrate the incredible
heros of this story, the people who tackled the shooter, the man who held Ms Giffords head in his arms, probably saving her life, the person who called the police, those who gave comfort and care.
Let’s find tears there because that is where we ought to begin here, this fallen, blood red apple. Let’s then also be angry and sad about the way we have all responded to this over the last few days. Let’s listen to voices of reason, put away our defensive
nature, our NEED to be right.
This speaks to the bigger problem, that we are so quick to judge, so quick to argue. This orange, so vital to all our systems, this right to free speech, has lost it’s
potency in the shuffle. When we are eager to throw away all other consideration, all other nutrients, we make ourselves the toxin.
Let’s be careful not to confuse the apples and the oranges…and also, let us not be so foolish as to think they are not related.