Fourteen years ago, the last time we had a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, the members of the United States Congress responded not by firing darts at George W. Bush, or by rushing to the nearest TV studio to explain what should be done, or by promoting gun ownership or by damning a religion or by blaming this American or that American; this leader or that leader.
No, they did what you see above. Together, at the suggestion of Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, Republicans and Democrats met at the steps of the Capitol Building and sang, “God Bless America.”
It remains one of my all-time favorite moments.
It also remains, sadly, a heartbreaking reminder of what was, but never will be again. When the 9.11 attacks happened, we said the terrorists wouldn’t change who we are or what we stand for. But here, in the aftermath of another terrorist attack, we are a changed people. That day in New York City (and Washington, and Pennsylvania) did something to us; something dark and damaging. I’m not entirely sure why, or even how, but American unity died. It truly did. And it breaks my heart.
In the couple of days since San Bernardino, all I’ve heard is anger. Barack Obama isn’t our leader; isn’t someone America needs to galvanize behind. No, he is part of the problem. He is inadequate. He is the root. The enemy. Name a GOP presidential candidate—any GOP presidential candidate—and they’ve used the post-attack time to slam our president on 24/7 spin. If you recall the aftermath of 9.11, Republicans declared the Dixie Chicks (the Dixie Chicks!?) unpatriotic for verbally attacking Bush during a “time of war.” But here we are, certainly at war with terrorism, and it is not only appropriate—but encouraged—for Republicans to slam our elected leader.
There is something wrong with this.
Something terribly wrong.