Not even the president, however, could match the goodness, dignity, and large-heartedness of John Green, whose 9-year-old daughter, Christina, was the youngest victim of suspect Jared Loughner's rampage.
Speaking through tears as he was interviewed on NBC's "Today" show and on the Fox News Channel, Christina's father refused to pin his daughter's murder on the "climate of hate" and "vitriolic rhetoric" so many others were eager to indict. Unlike the local sheriff who seized the moment to smear Arizona as "a Mecca for prejudice and bigotry," John Green said the killings were "such a random act, such a rare thing to happen in Tucson, Arizona, which is a wonderful city -- and the northwest side is a wonderful community."
The chattering class spent much of the past week calling for new laws and tighter regulations. There were proposals for -- among other things -- a ban on carrying guns within 1,000 feet of a member of Congress; resurrecting the long-discredited broadcast Fairness Doctrine; funding more outpatient clinics to treat the mentally ill; and prohibiting ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds. John Green endorsed none of them. "We don't need any more restrictions on our society," he said. New laws and limitations cannot prevent every horror, and if we want to live "in a country like the United States, where we are more free than anywhere else, we are subject to things like this happening."
No one would have faulted Green if, in his heartbreak, he had raged against the monster who shot Christina. Instead he expressed gratitude for "the friends and family we have surrounded ourselves with in this tragedy," and added, with almost incomprehensible generosity: "If maybe that fellow who was shooting everybody -- if he had had some friends and family around him, maybe this wouldn't have happened."
Like most people, Americans talk too much and think too little, especially when it comes to the sins and sorrows of others. There is "a time to keep silence and a time to speak," Ecclesiastes teaches. When a tragedy like the one in Tucson strikes, most of us would do well to keep silence, and to leave the speaking for those with the humanity and wisdom to say something meaningful.