Commentary: Put partisanship aside on 9-11

We've had quite the family argument in America this past month or two.

We've got a new president trying to make big changes, and a crippled economy holding us back. Either one would be enough to get people riled up. Both together make this country as angry as I can remember.

So maybe it would be good for us to take a deep breath and look at the calendar.

Friday is Sept. 11.

Hard to believe it's been eight years since the towers went down. I was back home in Georgia, getting dressed for a funeral. You remember where you were, too. And you remember the days and weeks afterward, the confusion and tears, the guts and resolve, the one clear thought in that terrible time: No matter our differences, we're Americans all.

Didn't take us long to forget.

My job is local columnist but I've spent a lot of time lately writing about national issues, because that's what I hear people talking about. Over the past few weeks I've written about health care protesters, the death of Ted Kennedy, the speech President Obama gave to schoolchildren. These are important things to talk about. But it has been like popping the cap on a jug of sour milk. The anger pours out, curdled and yellow, from every direction.

One morning I checked the comments; the eighth comment in, somebody brought up Hitler. I was surprised it took that long.

Despite all the bitterness, notice what is not happening. No protesters killed by the police. No one put in jail for their thoughts. Free speech here is not just a right but a habit. The terrorists who attacked us had a boxful of twisted reasons, but one of them was fear of a country where authority comes from the people, and the people can challenge authority. No matter how many dictators' names get tossed around like cheap beads, we are 233 years into a democratic government and not going anywhere.

So maybe, this Sept. 11, we should celebrate that.

As we pause in memory of those who died that day, we should also pause in appreciation of one another. Even the ones who irritate us. Especially the ones who irritate us.

At our church we have something called passing of the peace — it's basically an excuse to shake hands and welcome your neighbors. In a time when so many of us seem to be at war with one another, it might do us good to pass the peace for a day.

OK, I'm starting to hear “Kum Ba Yah” in the background, so it's time to stop with the touchy-feely stuff. Can't we all just get along? Of course not — if we agreed on everything, it wouldn't be much of a country anymore.

But it probably won't destroy our nation to dial it down for a day. Back away from the computer. Get out and breathe the fresh air. Remember Sept. 11. And say a kind word to your fellow Americans.