Silver Chips Online

National tragedy teaches local lessons

February 9, 2011
This article was written by the Silver Chips Print Editorial Board and is intended to represent the official views of the newspaper.

On Jan. 8, our nation was struck by violent, devastating tragedy. A young man entered a supermarket in Tucson, Ariz., where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was speaking to her constituents, and he opened fire on those gathered. The suspected shooter, Jared Loughner, shot at least 18 people, including Ms. Giffords, killing six. In light of this terrible crime, many are re-examining the country's political atmosphere, questioning whether the recent emphasis on fiery rhetoric and harsh criticism is to blame.

It is true that the tone in the political sphere has escalated in intensity and vitriol in recent months. Abrasive language and exaggeration are more common among politicians and pundits, but all of the blame should not and cannot fall on the current political culture. Fault also lies in the twisted behaviors of this one unstable man, who might have felt prompted to act in any political climate.

Even despite the unsettling animosity evident among politicians today, a time of such heavy grief is an inappropriate instance to point fingers on either side of the aisle. It is wrong to blame the actions of an entire party or ideology for such a crime. And it is wrong to take advantage of this tragedy to spew the same vicious language we condemn others for using. But this is a time to evaluate the state of our nation, and even our school, and to try to learn from this tragic situation in order to prevent anything similar from happening in the future.

Blazers often think of Blair as a haven for people of all viewpoints, a community that tolerates and welcomes all opinions. While Blair is accepting in terms of characteristics like race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, this degree of tolerance does not always carry over to political views. Most students in this area hold fairly liberal ideologies and identify as Democrats, but this is certainly not true of everyone. Students who are openly conservative are few and far between and often do not discuss politics because they know they are part of a small minority. Conservative ideologies regularly come under fire at Blair, but attacking the beliefs of some of our students is a poor representation of the open-minded school we claim to be. Our nation's level of political conflict certainly does not exist at Blair, but in order to promote tolerance we need to be cautious not to hyperbolize our own beliefs or the degree to which we presumably accept those of others.

But living up to our self-proclaimed reputation is not the only reason we must be open to conflicting opinions. Schools aim to prepare students for life as adults in the "real world," where viewpoints are not so homogeneous. The American people are liberals, conservatives and moderates, all with varying morals, beliefs and values. While there may be pockets of people who hold the same political beliefs as the majority of Blazers, they do not represent the diversity of beliefs of the entire nation. For the rest of our lives, we will have to tolerate and cooperate with people very different from ourselves, so now is the time to make an effort to respect and appreciate all differing perspectives.

President Obama's speech at the University of Arizona memorializing this tragedy was a powerful, moving tribute to both the heroes and the victims of the shooting. He spoke of a nine-year-old-girl who was killed that day and the perspective she had on the world one of hope for the future and a sound trust in democracy. He urged the nation to make this vision a reality and to create a society that lives up to our children's expectations. Blair students are those children. We have high expectations for our nation and for our school. If we want to live and learn in a truly open, accepting environment, change must start with us.