- - Tuesday, April 16, 2013



When did we all become so bitterly political?

When did vicious killings, blind terrorism, the slaughter of innocent children and cruel rampages by mad men become so divisive and partisan in America?

An evil lunatic walks into an elementary school and kills 20 children in one of the most unimaginable and savage crimes ever committed. There was not a living soul in America who did not feel the shock and sorrow that day. We were united by the grief.

Yet, when the next day dawned, the fresh sorrow was pierced by the tired whining of the old nakedly partisan political debate about gun control. In an instant, we went from being totally unified to being cleaved in half once again by politics.

In the months since, the partisans have not relented. Lobbyists have been hired and the poor families of the little victims have been dragged into the maw of the nasty, squalid struggle for political power in this town. The tiny little coffins have become political talismans in a fight for new laws that everyone agrees won’t bring back the children and would have done absolutely nothing to prevent the massacre in the first place.

In Boston, two ferocious bomb blasts mow down weary but joyous revelers at a world-famous marathon.

As so often happens when Americans are unmolested by politics, good people ran toward the explosions. Risking their lives and not knowing whether there might be more bombs, bystanders raced to tend to the injured and comfort the dying. Complete strangers stripped off their clothes and tore them into tourniquets.

With bare hands, they tied the strips of clothing around the most gruesome injuries to slow the bleeding, never minding the garish white bones splintered and sticking out at grotesque angles. Across the country, people watched the scene in horror.

But even before nightfall, politics had seeped in like a toxic vapor and soon took over.

Folks on the right jumped to the conclusion that the atrocity was committed by Muslim terrorists. On the left, people jumped to the conclusion that some kind of homegrown, right-wing wacko had perpetrated the crime. Neither side based the accusations on much evidence.

A columnist for The New York Times — our national newspaper of record — pinned blame on Senate Republicans for not approving President Obama’s choice for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. No wonder we are so lost.

When Mr. Obama stepped before the cameras to speak — certainly a moment of national unity through the years — he strained to NOT call the attack “terrorism.” For strictly political reasons, of course. Then, like crazy birds chasing a cicada, conservatives went loony and criticized Mr. Obama’s decision not to use the T-word — as if that might mend a wound or bring back a deadened heart.

Even at that moment, people were still bleeding, people were still frantically trying to find loved ones and people had not yet woken up to find their legs shattered and sawn off. They awoke to an appalling national debate over why somebody didn’t use the word “terrorism.” The whole lot of these partisans should be ashamed.

By the next morning, the entire frothing mess had boiled over into sheer lunacy. One lifelong politician used the travesty to push for higher taxes. Another used it to argue for more street cameras. Congress, meanwhile, moved with alacrity to remove trash cans around the Capitol.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly why or when America lost its soul and became so brutish, unthinking and deaf to others. So uncharitable. It certainly isn’t how we reacted in the aftermath of 9/11.

Was it spawned by the blind hatred in some of former President George W. Bush? Is it because of the blind hatred in others today of Mr. Obama? Or is there just so much regret on both sides that the unity after 9/11 birthed two unpopular wars and turned the federal government into an even more unpopular security leviathan?

Whatever it is, it is corroding the soul of America and our soul must be cleansed of it before we will ever be great again.

Charles Hurt can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter at @charleshurt.



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