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The Uneasy Politics of Grief

The moving article that Abe links to by Raina Wallens—who lost her husband on 9/11—is a reminder of just how personal a national tragedy can be. And it puts to special shame the attempts by some pundits today—Paul Krugman and Kathleen Parker foremost among them—to use today’s anniversary to take potshots at the American people in their moment of grief and remembrance. I was especially fond of this paragraph of Wallens’s:

Our culture’s need to wrap everything in a bow and deliver meaning — especially when it comes to grief and loss — ignores the depths of experiences, the intensity and the fullness, and the fact that certain events have no meaning or if they do, they can’t be summed up in a tweet.

Imagine, for a moment, how Wallens might have reacted to reading today’s major newspapers. Krugman’s decision to use his space at the New York Times to push the conspiracy theory that President Bush used the attacks to “cash in” should be shocking—but it isn’t, and perhaps that’s the real scandal of what Krugman and the Times have become. And Parker’s bizarre Washington Post column essentially asked Republicans to pass President Obama’s jobs bill to rectify what she sees as our national failure to be nicer to each other after 9/11. It was filled with the following sort of equivalence:

Another terror attack would put things in perspective, all right, but our survival ultimately depends on our willingness to marshal reason and restraint against the emotional terrorism that surely will bring us down.

Proper “restraint,” I think, was shown this morning by President Obama and former President George W. Bush, who each spoke briefly and with solemnity, and displayed proper humility by using their time to quote others—Psalms and Abraham Lincoln, respectively.

This country doesn’t need to be lectured today, and it certainly doesn’t need to be recruited to whatever cultish obsession Krugman is selling today at half price. But a day when pundits like Krugman provide the low point while elected leaders help provide the high point at least tells us that American democracy is doing something right.



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