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SPOTLIGHT
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Even in tragedy, a nation divided

Published on -4/29/2013, 9:08 AM

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Ordinarily, I'd thank you for writing. But truth is, I am not grateful you wrote; your note last week was one of the more troubling things I have read. I do not blame you for leaving it unsigned.

"We stand together," I had written. "We stand defiant. And we stand with Boston."

You disagreed.

"Your wrong pal we do not STAND TOGETHER.OH MY GOD we need a CIVIL WAR.The American people against the LIBERAL DEMACRAT SCUM that we have let allow SCUMBAGS like those that would BLOW UP people in BROAD DAYLIGHT to be here ... WE NEED A CIVIL WAR.Those demacrats that happen to still be breathing after that CIVIL WAR will have a choice. BECOME NORMAL or you are LEAVING with the 11 million illegals that ARE GOING HOME ... THIS IS SO CLOSE TO HAPPENING THAT EVERY LIBERAL IN THIS COUNTRY SHOULD START LOSING SLEEP ... THERE IS A CLEAR REASON WHY WE ARE ARMED TO THE TEETH ..."

And you know, there was a time, not so long ago, I'd have laughed off your semi-coherent, misspellings-riddled rant. But I don't laugh so much anymore, because you concretize a question I have been struggling with: Is America sustainable? Can a nation pulling so energetically in opposite directions survive?

We call it hyper-partisanship, polarization, balkanization. But those are SAT words, polysyllabic expressions that make abstract what they describe. So let us face what you embody and call it by name. It is hatred. And it is contempt.

It's not just you.

It's Arkansas state legislator Nate Bell tweeting, "I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?" as the hunt for bombers closed that city down.

Before that, it was that man in Florida who committed suicide because Barack Obama was re-elected. And so-called "patriots" in the woods plotting against the government. And a sign promising death to the first lady and her "two stupid kids." It's the true state of the union, the America we have come to be.

Yes, I know. Bill Maher once called Sarah Palin a crude and sexist name. Shame on that smarmy little man. But no, that does not suggest an equivalence of hatred and contempt.

In volume, vociferousness and pure venom, Maher and the handful of other left-wing pundits who mistake name-calling for argument and coarseness for wit have nothing on the army of Hannitys, Coulters, Savages, Santorums, Limbaughs, Palins, Bachmanns, Malkins, Nugents, Trumps and Becks trolling the sewers of American disunion.

Now, to them, we add you, my nameless countryman, advocating for war. War.

And I am struck by the fact that I am not struck by the fact. Even this is just business as usual now.

A nation is more than common geography. It is also common values, a common way of looking at the world -- not that everyone agrees on everything always, but that we are at least tethered by similar understanding of who we are and what that means.

It is that test this country fails now with regularity. We can't even agree on who we are anymore, so swamped are we by the rage red holds for blue.

The road to Civil War began 153 years ago as Southern states, led by South Carolina, passed ordinances of secession from the Union.

But, as a nation is more than just geography, so, too, is secession therefrom. The act represents a tearing away that is as much spiritual and emotional as it is geographic. Maybe even more.

So if the likes of you and Mr. Bell are right, if it is really beyond us now even to stand shoulder to shoulder with stricken fellow citizens, then we have lost more than bombs could ever destroy. And secession has already occurred.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist

for the Miami Herald.

lpitts@miamiherald.com

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