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Jewish World Review Oct. 8, 2001/ 17 Tishrei 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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The good news about the bad news is that we are united --
THREE weeks after life in America changed, editors are sending hints that it's OK to write about something else now. "Transition to normal stuff" is the word.

Easy for them to say. If you read three or four newspapers, as columnists do, or wander around the Web, you're hard-pressed to find any other news worthy of comment.

In my local paper, I found only two items that were unrelated to America's war on terrorism.

One was about "reef balls," large concrete balls with holes carved out to hold the cremated remains of sea lovers. Comment: OK. The other item was about the death of Ernest Hemingway's youngest son, Gregory, 69, who was found dead in the Miami jail cell where he'd spent the night on charges of indecent exposure. Comment: Hmm.

Otherwise, nearly every story, from budget discussions to welfare to interest rates, is related somehow to the events of 9-11. As for what the public wants, I consider myself typical. I want information about our war, about the people who died in and survived the attacks. I want to know what our leaders are saying to whom, where our troops are headed, the latest scoop on Osama bin Laden.

Although most of us have gotten back to normal activities -- I've severed the umbilical cord that tied me to the television set the first week or so -- even normal activities are circumscribed by the terrorist attacks. Wednesday, I moved my office to another city. The movers and I spent the day talking about the attacks.

Later in the evening, a friend stopped by for a visit. We chatted for a minute about "normal" topics, and then confessed to one another that we really wanted to turn on the tube and catch up on the day. "It's like an addiction," she said.

She was right, but it's more than an addiction. Addiction is what tethered Americans to the O.J. Simpson trial or the latest celebrity tragedy -- Lady Di's death, JFK Jr.'s missing plane, Dale Earnhardt's fatal race. Our attention to the terrorist atrocities committed in our midst is a national epiphany.

Each day as we tune in to the latest events, or hear the president's remarks to a school, or the British prime minister's comments, we're participating in a national understanding that transcends mere information. To follow the day's events is to participate in community as most Americans never have.

As I said to one of the movers, if there's anything good to come of this, it is that we've come to realize how lucky we are and that we're all in this together. It's no longer Us against Us, partisan groups bickering over petty issues or even large ones. It's Us against Them, united against those who would attack our land, our freedom, our principles.

We suddenly realize with the starkness of images that will never leave us that freedom does come at a great price. What we have taken for granted, we now appreciate. Everyone seems suddenly more gracious, more willing to hold a door, to grant a merge, to greet the passer-by on the sidewalk. In spite of the horror, even as we trudge toward war, we are becoming -- dare we say it -- a kinder, gentler nation.

That fact, as much as the news itself, compels us to tap the power button. Not to get too fuzzy here, but it feels good to sit down with one's fellow Americans and confirm convictions rarely exercised if long-held. It's a relief to feel unity instead of the endless divisiveness that has characterized our nation for too long.

These are the things that interest us now and for the foreseeable future. Which is, after all, good news.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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