Each massive human tragedy is a crossroads, and the route we choose to take determines the quality of our shared civilization.
Sept. 11, 2001, placed us at a crossroads. To continue in the direction we had been going clearly would have been folly. There was a golden opportunity, a capital fund of world goodwill, a window of moral vision, by which we might have responded to a heinous crime by strengthening the international rule of law and creating a global police force to hunt down those who violated it and bring them to a bar of international human justice. We chose instead the hegemonic path of war, hate and massive destruction. We as a nation are the worse for it, and we have dragged the world down with us.
The Great Financial Collapse of 2008-2009 placed us at another crossroads. Having led the world to the brink of economic ruin, the United States could have chosen to rein in the careering forces of greed in the marketplace, and made government for people an international ethic. It chose instead the bizarre posture of "too big to fail" that has left most of the nations of the world hostage to banker gangsters and money changers.
At crossroads after crossroads, there has been an option for what Robert Frost called "the road less traveled by." For Frost it made "all the difference," but humankind has yet to know the joy of that "difference," for we have never chosen it.
Again in the wake of the terrible slayings in Tucson there was an honorable, less-traveled option. Our leadership could have confronted the mania of the NRA and begun to enact sane weapons controls. Media owners and sponsors of entertainments could have withdrawn the pulpits from which the Becks, Limbaughs and Palins spew their lies and hate. Honorable citizens could have turned off their TV sets and shunned the websites of the haters. Political leaders of every stripe could have joined together in their common humanity and agreed at least on this: we've got to stop the killing.
Already it is clear there will be no such coming together; no such movement to restore sanity; no such cleansing of our public discourse of the bile, rot, lies and inflammatory imagery of the far right. Limbaugh made it clear when he blathered about Democrats wanting to "free" the alleged killer in Tucson. Boehner, the pieties of Saturday barely dry on his tongue, vowed that by God no gun control acts would pass in his watch, nor over the dead bodies of Arizona. Lines are drawn ever deeper in the sand; those who would brutalize the black, the brown, the yellow, the red, the "other" are more determined than ever to protect their "rights" to do so; Palin spews her cockamamie defiance in Facebook and her white Christian blind followers twitter their approval; polls show that a majority of Americans don't think our appalling political rhetoric of hate and division had anything to do with the climate in which a Tucson mass murder was formed out of the cloth of middle class childhood; even those so inclined are reluctant to attempt to lead us down a road less traveled by, lest they suffer the martyrdom of Roll, Tiller, two Kennedys, King, Lincoln, McKinley, Cermak, Malcolm, Garfield, Long . . .
How many names must there be on the list before there are enough? How many times must we toll the dirge, muffle the drums, utter the pieties, pray to a deaf god, blame a mad loner, deny complicity, point fingers at one another, demand that government do less, fault government for doing too much, demonize those who are different from ourselves in color or belief, blind ourselves to reality, posture in some make-believe world where up is down and down is up and we are the sane ones and everyone else is crazy and . . .
Oh, beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain.
For purple mountain majesties
Above the bloody plain.
All guns were made for thee.
And crown thy hate,
From sea to shining sea!