Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sorting through the vitriol

I like to comment on politics. It’s what I went to school for. Politics is the art of persuasion, decision-making and compromise. It’s ugly. And it certainly isn’t for everyone. It can be exciting. It can even be fun. But it can certainly be frustrating and can ruin people from the inside out.

Sometimes things should not be political.

I had planned on writing this week’s column on the panel chosen last week by the county legislature to draw the 15 new legislative districts. We had been told that it would be a citizen panel comprised of non-politicians. I wanted to get into it, in depth, talking about each panelist and noting their political connections. Let’s suffice it to say I was not pleased with the list of names.

And I’m going to leave it at that. Truth is, I don’t feel like getting into politics this week. There’s enough politicking going on right now. And frankly, we need less of it.

I was disheartened (a massive understatement) to hear the news Saturday of the shooting in Arizona.

It was a story broken by Facebook for me. I checked in to see what my friends were up to, only to see post after post about Arizona, tragedy and prayer. I got the gist of what was going on, but quickly turned on the television in hopes of getting all the details.

I went back and forth between the TV, which lacked details, and the Internet, which suffered from no lack of speculation or opinions.

The television frustrated me. And the Internet angered me.

And then I caught a tidbit of news that just saddened me. And my frustration and anger melted away, supplanted with an overwhelming desire to hug my children.

One of the victims of Saturday’s insane brutality was a 9-year-old girl.

Christina Taylor Green was born on Sept. 11, 2001 — one of our nation’s darkest days. She died Saturday, the most recent of our darkest days.

And she left behind a mother, a father and a brother.

Suddenly, for me, the political rhetoric being displayed on Facebook and Twitter became annoying. Meanwhile, the concern being displayed on the television news for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was secondary.

All I could think about was that somewhere in Arizona was a guy — probably about my age — who had a daughter — just about my youngest daughter’s age — earlier that morning. And now he doesn’t.

Who cares about Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and Rush and blah, blah, blah? Somebody shut up and give that poor father a hug.

Amidst all the vitriol, people were actually losing their lives. Innocent children, even.

I’m not saying that politics is unimportant. Or that it doesn’t have a place and time. But the place and time is not now.

Frankly, anyone trying to score political points while a parent is burying their child deserves a fate crueler than I can imagine.

There’s plenty of time to have an honest discussion about the political climate in this country and how that may or may not have contributed to this tragedy. But first, let’s grieve our loss.

I’ll leave you with Christina’s words: “I hope you know all the words to the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

I hope I do, too.

Scott Leffler, night/city editor for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, has been in the local print and broadcast media for the past decade. His column appears every Tuesday. Contact him at scott.leffler@lockportjournal.com.