Normally, I’m suspicious of “what about the children” sentiments, which are too often expressed when some grown-up just wants her way.
Not that kids don’t need adults to be their advocates — quite the opposite. Big picture-wise, we’re sort of all they’ve got. And really, children’s interests do deserve and need our consideration.
When it comes to burdening kids with things like school busing, or allowing Section 8 housing into a neighborhood or building nearby mental health facilities or incarcerating drug abusers, I think the “what about the children” is a clever way of saying “what about my property values.”
But last night in Tucson, President Obama delivered a moving speech that, indeed approached the question: what about the children? What about the memory of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who was killed when gunman Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ rally over the weekend.
Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. What about the children? What about other girls and boys like Green? What about babies born today who will be adults in less than a couple of decades. In just how bad of a state is this country going to be when we hand them the keys to a home that looks like this.
Here’s what Obama says regarding the girl who had already planned a life of public service to her country, because she thought this place was so great:
“I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it.”
Obama asked us to use the tragedy in Tuscon as a turning point for how we think and talk about politics today, for how and whether we will work together — as citizens and lawmakers — to move this country forward.
While there are still some questions about whether Loughner’s actions were politically motivated, or the deadly acts of a mentally ill man, if Americans want to take this moment of tragedy and turn it into something, then now is certainly that time.
Some have complained that his speech and the memorial were more political rally than memorial, more branding opportunity than celebration of lives that were lost or, perhaps, forever damaged.
But I think it’s the right time to re-focus, to take attention away from cross-hairs and hate speech and nasty picketers, blood libel and 2012 hopefuls and shine it back on those who count. Specifically, people who thought they could go to meet their representative at a local grocery store, shake her hand, ask her a question, listen to her talk. And get home in time for dinner. People who can shop with and stand next to people they don’t agree with politically, without worrying that they’ll be considered dead meat, metaphorically or otherwise. Refocused on people who can smile, say “pardon me/no after you/oh much obliged/here let me help!” Refocused on people, young people, who run for student council president because it sounds like awesome.
You know, regular ol’ Americans, flawed and weird as we are. Americans who once felt hopeful and ready, not like children to be served but capable adults ready to lend a hand, to get the job done, to hand a strong and shiny country over to the kids — everyone’s kids — some day.