April 22, 2013

A Week of Violence

A week of violence and mayhem (and the memories of more violence and mayhem) -- Boston Marathon bombings; a Senate debate over gun control, watched by the families of the children slain in Sandy Hook Elementary School and by Gabrielle Giffords; a fierce explosion that levels much of West, Texas and wiped out their volunteer fire department; a violent manhunt in Boston -- all watched and lived minute-by-minute by a nation whose emotions are stirred simultaneously.

You can be sure those emotions will be tapped in coming debates over immigration, homeland security, guns, worker safety, and civil liberties -- and that those debates will be divisive. But for now, let us take a collective deep breath and remind ourselves of why we were and still are so touched by the events of the week. It was not the violence and mayhem itself but the lives that have been affected by it -- the losses and the heroism of people who could be any one of us or our children, in communities that could be our own.

The idea of a nation is an abstraction in an era when we are taught to think globally and act locally, and when national politics has become a cauldron of frustration and rage. But the reality of nation is the empathic bond that allows us to feel what others -- in Watertown and Newtown, in Boston and in West, Texas -- might be feeling, and to want to know every detail of what they're going through. That doesn't mean we will always agree; we will continue to disagree passionately. But it is well worth reminding ourselves of the strength of that bond, upon which all else depends.

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