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Kittredge: Our Hidden Glock

01/13/11 7:55AM By Susan Cooke Kittredge
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(HOST)  From events involving Glock handguns in Tucson to the fury of winter storms, commentator Susan Cooke Kittredge has been thinking about the causes - and consequences - of isolation.

(KITTREDGE) Arizona is a long way from Vermont, and I suspect that many of us here in the Green Mountains have taken some secret measure of solace in this fact in the last week.  Arizona is dry and arid, its desert palette beige against our rich and rolling land.  Arizona is in the southwest, Vermont firmly in the northeast.  Our cultures are different, too; and, though hunting is an honored and deep tradition here, our attitudes toward guns are markedly at odds.

The shooting in Arizona this past Saturday has affected us all, no matter where in the country we live; we have been shocked, saddened and slowed.  We have listened as politicians and reporters have tried to frame the event within some scope of continuance: it was a result of ramped up rhetoric and political vitriol; it was made possible by Arizona's exceptionally lenient gun control laws; it is indicative of our culture of violence; it was one mentally ill man on a rampage.

It is natural to try and understand this horrific event and to ask why it happened and what we might do to lessen the chance of its happening again.

Here, in my quiet house, with snow falling outside, it is also possible to put this aside and tend to my own life and routine.  And that is the danger.  Winter can be isolating, especially in northern climes.  Even though the days are getting longer, it is by minutes only.  It is cold and dark and unforgiving, particularly for those for whom every day is a struggle of some sort.  Isolation can breed alienation and a tendency to become entrenched in one's own views.  As the picture of Jared Loughner's life emerges, we see that it is one of increasing isolation.

I do not think that solitude in and of itself is a bad thing.  What I do know is that when we draw lines in the sand or in the snow or in our living rooms, and emphasize our differences and maintain our own positions, discourse ends, tempers flare, and mistakes are made.  Our natural proclivity for wanting to be right is our hidden Glock; it is a weapon we are apt to use too quickly and too often, with dire consequences, sometimes to ourselves.

Across party lines, elected officials have vowed to act in a more civil fashion in Washington, D.C.  I'm not sure what this will look like, given some of the characters.  But here at home I believe we can push back the darkness of winter by reaching out to our friends and neighbors and giving them one of the greatest gifts we as human beings can ever give: we can listen to them, no matter how much we disagree or think them off their rockers.  To be heard with patience and compassion is an elixir for the soul; to hear someone else's truth, an honor.
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