More graceful or appropriate comments were inconceivable. President Obama's memorial remarks were spiritual, touching, thoughtful, hopeful and manifestly heartfelt. Toward their conclusion my wife turned to me and said, rhetorically, "He's hitting a home run, isn't he." In unnecessary reply: He sure did.
My wife's admiration turned to shock, though, when out of 10th-inning curiosity I turned to Fox -- a truly sui generis act in our house -- for a voyeuristic, and I presumed re-educational, recap.
And sure enough, there above an insistent crawl -- "Friend says that Loughner didn't listen to radio ... Loughner did not watch TV ... Loughner was not political" -- was the post-memorial analysis of Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and Charles Krauthammer that converged on, according to the panel, Obama's central refutation of the irresponsible left's claim that right-wing incivility caused this tragedy.
Did the left make such a claim, and was there any direct causality? Both had already been conclusively answered, or so I thought, in the negative; we can and do, however, legitimately speculate that one man's insanity may have been infected by the poisonous, vocal barbarity of the right.
Nevertheless, what I heard Obama pointedly posit in his Tucson remarks wasn't a recalibration or retirement of that withered debate, but that our future could see more Tucsons if we don't learn to learn tolerance and mutual respect.
"[L]et's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy," said the president, "but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation."
The discerning reader will note Obama's strategically brilliant insertion of the word "simple": this tragedy was of enormously complex causation, the president was saying, while in no way ruling out the organized right's element of gun-packing, cable-disorienting, talk-radio-depressing, unmodulated madness.
Yet I'm sorry, Mr. President, that I must freely confess that I'll fail your inspirational call to "use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations" and "to sharpen our instincts for empathy" and respect -- because mine are worn out; have been worn out. They're exhausted, turned incurably hopeless by years of the far right's unremitting, profoundly irremediable vitriol and hate.
Today, I will join millions of other Americans who, like myself, were inspired last night and yet now will observe the right's wretched, retching denunciations of all that you pondered in Tucson, Arizona. The usual, reactionary suspects of cable television and talk radio and cyberviciousness will merely use your Come, let us reason together speech as a whetstone for their claws, daggers and fangs.
They've no honor; they never will. And with people like that, one cannot reason.
But you keep trying, Mr. President -- and in so doing, isolating.