shootings and floods: a very good Arianna Huffington reflection

A few hours ago Arianna Huffington wrote a deep, rich reflection on the craziness of the Arizona shootings, suggesting that it’s a reflection of a collective toxic immune system.


Here the floods are a far more distressing issue. We’re all feeling powerless and at a loss as to how to fathom what’s happening. Arianna’s thoughts don’t directly translate to the horror of Queensland’s floods, but are a moment in carefully felt, generous perspective that taps into are desire to be connected to those at the heart of the tragedy, to be with them right now, to contribute and be alive to their pain. To not stand aside on our little islands.

This is always important. We are at our most lonely and anti-human when we fail to take part in a tragedy.

Regarding the Arizona/Giffords issue, she says the shooting was toxic, like a virus. Environmental disasters are equally a virus, she says:

What most determines whether those viruses make us sick is the strength of our immune system. When it is stressed and compromised, infections can easily take hold. And there is no doubt that our collective immune system is worn down, making us more susceptible to the kind of infection that turned that Arizona parking lot into a killing field….

We are all the immune system of our democracy.

And this calamity should serve as a wake-up call that we need to bring more urgency to strengthening it. It’s very easy, as we’ve seen over the last few years, to ignore the toxicity — partly because we’re swimming in it. But it’s time to recognize the obvious: our society is in danger of coming apart at the seams — from our overheated political rhetoric and crumbling infrastructure to our rising poverty and shrinking middle class.

She goes on to say what we all need to do, how to be a part of the moving forward from calamity:

We must also have a real conversation about what kind of country we want to live in, and take practical, concrete action to create it.

Rage, paranoia, and division are not the only possible responses to the very legitimate anger millions of Americans — on both sides of the political spectrum — are feeling at the state of the country and the state of their lives. And the Arizona shootings put a spotlight on the need to redirect that anger, frustration, and despair, and use them to take action, and make life better for those who need help. We can choose connection rather than division. Understanding rather than fear. Reaching out rather than turning away.

In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton made a number of impassioned calls for taking a stand against reckless speech and behavior. “When there is talk of hatred,” he said at a prayer service four days after the attack, “let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it. In the face of death, let us honor life. As St. Paul admonished us, Let us ‘not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.'” I’d love to see President Obama use this moment to call on the country to find ways to “overcome evil with good.” Americans, he said in a 2006 speech, “want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives.” That purpose should be found in the shared national objective of rebuilding our communities and our connection to each other through everyday acts of compassion, generosity, and service.

“Our anger will either lead us to tap into our baser instincts or into the better angels of our nature .”

I think our shock will tap us into the better angels of our nature. These floods will define us for some time. Let’s bolster our immune systems!

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