Maybe I’m skeptical of the usefulness of national unity because I saw it up close in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. I saw the crowds of people lining Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview, waving flags and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And I saw some parts of those crowds turn into ugly mobs that marched on places of worship and beat up Sikh cab drivers, that hurled ugly racial slurs and broke windows and threatened women and children. The nostalgic picture of America in those days is of a country united. It was reductive then. It’s a sick joke now.
Unity is good for nothing if it does not support productive action. We all can sit in a circle and sing “Kumbaya” and praise the president to the skies, visualizing a way out of Iraq, but our unity alone won’t bring the troops home, won’t end terrorism, won’t make the policies of the Bush administration effective in any measurable way.
That will take action, and change, two things this presidential administration has shown itself highly allergic to over the past six years. Two things a heck of a lot more important than whether we feel united.