Where are the ‘conversations’ after the Tucson shootings?

The shootings last Saturday in Tucson set a horrific tone for the new year for all of us in Arizona.

The tone has all become politically charged, vitriolic, cascading into media finger-pointing, political caricatures, party bashing. It’s time for everyone to cool their jets, and rally together as a community. We are still in a state of shock.

Speaking of shock, this hit me when I ran into Walmart very early this morning to pick up a bottle of medicine for my daughter. There was hardly anyone in the store. I went up to a lady in the pharmacy stocking the shelves to ask for help and she shrieked! It must have seemed as if someone had crept up behind her. She apologized profusely, and pointed me to the shelf. But I went away thinking this might be the thumbnail of how we are all feeling as a nation, caught off guard.

We have seen a sad decline in discourse in this country. We don’t spend enough time engaging it it because, frankly, people don’t even know, or care, what discourse means. It’s not a synonym for comment wars. Or mocking wall postings and adhoc pages on Facebook. Or rude posters and Tshirts at rallies. I picked this definition (an archaic one for sure!) that says discourse is the “mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts.” The word ‘conversations’ — a term we social media types use flippantly, sometimes — have a lot to do with it.

Social media  both informed us and confused us over the past few days. You probably saw this in the wrong ‘reports’ that were quickly repeated and re-tweeted. Things were less heated at Wikipedia, on the entry for Gabrielle Giffords. The editors were more civil, debating the reports that she had died, and whether to use the Sarah Palin map, just because other media were mentioning it. In short, there was –and still is — some restraint.

Maybe we could learn a thing of two from the discourse, based on established guidelines, at Wikipedia. Maybe we should all calm down a bit, and not feel the need to shriek when something of this magnitude creeps up on us.


Here are some thoughtful commentaries on how social media has played out so far:

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