Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Scripps column

Glenn Beck is right.

Not about everything, mind you, or even most things. But Beck is right to lament how Americans have lost the spirit of unity that filled the nation, oh so briefly, after 9/11.

Remember those days, and remember them with some bittersweet fondness.

They may represent the final moment -- ever -- that Americans came together in the aftermath of tragedy. Nowadays, everybody retreats immediately to their ideological camps and girds for battle, no matter the facts on the ground. Despite President Obama's very nice speech Wednesday night in Tuscon, that's unlikely to change soon.

Why? Because our politics is more about denying legitimacy to the "other" side than it is about solving the problems that face the country.

It's understandable why many liberals thought the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords was the work of a right-wing terrorist: the rhetoric on the right in recent years has been alarmingly militant.

But liberal commentators were wrong to publicly cast blame before we even knew Jared Lee Loughner's identity and motives; a wait-and-see silence would've been appropriate.

It's understandable why conservatives recoiled from associating their rhetoric with any kind "climate of hate" surrounding the shooting: Loughner is clearly mentally ill; Republicans aren't responsible for the vagaries of his brain chemistry. But right-wing commentators were also wrong not to pause and reconsider the appropriateness their side's recent talk of "Second Amendment remedies" in the political realm.

Nobody pauses. Nobody reflects. The only way to start trusting each other again would be to shut up and listen to each other once in awhile. But what are the chances that will happen? Non-existent, it seems. I'm right, you're wrong, and that's all anybody needs to know.

And that's my take. A bit more pox-on-both-your-houses, probably, than I feel. But man, it's hard to say anything fresh or new or insightful about stuff sometimes. Some weeks, that's pretty discouraging.

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