We watched the Tucson Memorial service last night because we knew it could be a moment of national healing, a moment where our hearts would be uplifted. And we were right.
One of Congresswoman Gifford’s staff talked about her healing process, how she’s there, bringing the same courage and expectation of progress to recovering from a brain injury that she brought to her work with her community and fellow Congress members.
Dr. Carlos Gonzales opened with a traditional prayer with the permission of his elders, bringing our Native American heritage front and center. He reminded us of our less than perfect beginning, but of how America struggles constantly to realize her dream. Intern Daniel Hernandez refused the label of hero. But perhaps a hero is an ordinary person doing what needed to be done. He reminded us of e pluribus unum, that out of many we become one.
President Obama spoke quietly of each victim in words that could almost have been whispered into the ears of family members, but that everyone needed to hear. He spoke of tragedy, but then he pointed to the hope—how people saved more from being killed, how people helped those who were injured, how people immediately moved toward healing. He called for us to remember that dream of perfecting our union, of remaking the world in its image, but not through the violence that has marred our history too often. He said “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.” He challenged us to be as good and as deserving of respect as the child Christina Taylor Green thought we were. “I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.”
The president of the University of Arizona ended with Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin’s “To the New Year.” The last lines reminded me of aging, oddly enough, of that dream we had as teenagers or young adults, when we were full of idealism and hope, marching for peace, for equality, for civil rights, for women’s rights. For that dream of a more perfect world, for justice. And now, forty years later, we see our nation in almost the same place, and yet not. Some of us have despaired. Some of us have given up. But Merwin’s words assure us that the dream is still there:
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
The dream we worked for is still there. Other generations worked for it in the past. Other generations have been born and taken up the vision. Everything is still possible.