The Metropolitan Opera’s centennial production of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West was beamed to big screens across America. Audiences were enthralled by the by rootin’ tootin’ lotsa shootin’ Old West romance staged in Italian by an international company of musical magicians, all plainly enjoying themselves. The afternoon orgy of opera and popcorn rendered fans mercifully oblivious to the real bullets flying at a New West strip mall in Tucson.
By the time I left the theater and turned on my car radio, the Perpetual Scream Machine that passes for political discourse was in hyperdrive. Police had not yet had time to notify all the families of Jared Loughner’s victims, but that did not stop any of the usual suspects from fingering all of their usual targets.
Big name attention addicts and their media enablers showed up on their day off to “weigh in,” nevermind that few if any weight-bearing facts had been established.
Two days later, President and Mrs. Obama stepped on to the White House South Lawn and for a few precious seconds, the political decibel level dropped to nearly nothing,
Six dead. Fourteen wounded. This is what it takes in the Information Age to get a single short moment “the blink of an eye, really” to hear ourselves think.
Perhaps it was in Monday’s national moment of silence that Def Jam label co-founder Russell Simmons decided to reach out to his friend, Fox News President Roger Ailes.
That’s not a misprint. According to hip-hop mogul Simmons, he and the take-no-prisoners GOP consultant-turned broadcaster disagree about everything, but are friends anyway. Within hours of the national moment of silence, Simmons reported on his website that Ailes had told all of our [Fox News commentator] guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually. You don’t have to do it with bombast.
There are signs here and there that this is an idea whose time is about to come. In an interview with Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi, Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, a conservative think tank, said, “I do wish we could all go comment-free for 24 hours. How about we just pray and be quiet?”
Even MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann had what passes for an epiphany in the CableSphere and promised to tone down the macho metaphors.
Comedian and sanity advocate Jon Stewart, who is rapidly becoming the Universal Translator for people trying to make sense of these Tower of Babel times, encouraged us to “[r]ead up about those who were injured or killed, you will be comforted about much anonymous goodness there is in the world…you will realize people that you don’t even know, and have never even met are leading lives of real dignity and goodness.
Nine year old Christina Green certainly fits the profile. Wanting to be the best student council representative she could be, she jumped at the chance to get up early on a Saturday to see “Congress on Your Corner,” a constituent service of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
We’ll never know what Christina would have grown up to be, and as this is written, Rep. Giffords is fighting for her life in a trauma unit at University Medical Center.
If the President could shut us up a little while longer, perhaps we could hear what Christina might want us to do to mend our fragile Republic.
It’s been a long time since I was a 3rd grade student council representative, but I think she might like it if Â this Saturday, and
every Saturday, every member of Congress spends the morning on a corner in their district, reclaiming our political innocence, one strip mall at a time.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo credit: Pink Sherbert Photography on Flickr)