In her first interview after the standoff, Tuff mentions that in the initial terrible moments she thought about a sermon series on “anchoring” that her pastor had been preaching, and it helped her to see that Hill was bereaved and in pain, and she was praying for him. I don’t know anything about anchoring, but I know I want to learn. Tuff’s compassion and her ability to see herself in her assailant (and him in her) might be as useful a way to think about school violence as any other I’ve seen. In the course of a few days, Tuff proved that the national debate doesn’t have to be about “bad” guys and “tough” guys (or even just “guys” at all). This doesn’t have to be about lose-lose split-second decisions or the simplification of complicated situations for political gain. She shows that this debate is about ongoing, years-in-the-making problems: isolation and loneliness, medical failures, depression, and the allure of being a copycat in a culture that celebrates violence. She shows that polarizing debates about bad guys and good guys in the heat of battle are both fatuous and pointless.Much more here, with details about the hour-long interview Anderson Cooper did with Tuff last night. I highly recommend that. You'll see that Tuff is very strongly grounded in religion — more than Lithwick seems to want to talk about. I don't think religion is essential to developing the kind of skill that Tuff displayed, but it is most certainly Tuff's own understanding of why she was able to do what she did, as she continually returned to statements like "God gives us a purpose in life" and "God has a way of showing you what's really in you."
August 23, 2013
Writes Dahlia Lithwick.