Mark Udall, D-Colo., is suggesting Congress members drop the tradition of sitting by party at the State of the Union speech. Separated by an aisle leads to the scene of one side standing and wildly applauding while the other side sits stone-faced, a sight Udall calls "unbecoming of a serious institution."
The senseless attack last weekend on a Congress member in Tucson that left six dead and 14 wounded didn't result in the national unity or reflection we might have wished.
Like every other news event, the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords simply provided fodder for the multimedia combat that has come to dominate our political life. Some pointed the fingers of blame before anyone knew what motivated the killer, then people pointed fingers at others for pointing fingers at them.
At a gathering in Tucson on Wednesday that had elements of both a memorial service and a pep rally, President Obama tried to change the tone:
"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do, it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.
"If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle."
Will Obama's words change the tone? We wouldn't count on it, not with so many media outlets –– and their followers –– seemingly addicted to anger, self-righteousness and unflinching opposition to the other side.
But the events of the past week may have an impact on the House of Representatives, that fractious community shaken by the wounding of a member who is popular on both sides of the aisle and the murder of one of her aides.
In the House, the polarization and finger pointing that mars our public discourse has real consequences. It means problems that might be solved get lost in partisan gridlock. It makes winning the next election take priority over doing what's right for the country.
House members, Democrats and Republicans alike, would do well to remember that, as Obama said, "the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."
Congress members could express that thought at the next big gathering for a presidential speech: the State of the Union on Jan. 25. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is suggesting members drop the tradition of sitting by party, separated by an aisle, which leads to the scene of one side standing and wildly applauding while the other side sits stone-faced, a sight Udall calls "unbecoming of a serious institution."
Udall says it's time to cross the aisle and sit together, at least for a few hours, to show that while government may be divided, America is one nation. Sounds like a good idea.
The MetroWest Daily News