Do most citizens have a fully reasoned view of what we want government to actually do? Is that at the root of the polarization poisoning American politics? Perhaps a little thought experiment would help.
If Americans were told to choose between two cars, shirts, colors or family sizes, we'd rise up in revolt. Tell us we have only two parties, however, and we accept it as though any alternative is unimaginable.
To write on controversial subjects in a way that I consider helpful takes a capacity for keeping one's cool and a willingness to refrain from scoring cheap points. That's no more true of Pakistan than of any other subject.
The point is that no self-respecting human being likes to be bullied, whether in Tripoli or in Madison. In America, less urgently than in Libya but urgently enough, it's high time we reclaimed an honest and legitimately popular politics.
If we believe in the words of Thomas Jefferson, who thought that we should have "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none," then it's time we live by those words.
What is it that allows us to consider Jared Loughner a mentally troubled young man acting alone and Faisal Shahzad, the mentally troubled young U.S. citizen who tried to blow up Times Square last May, a terrorist "Made in Pakistan"?
Neither the left nor the right has the answers to our most pressing problems, though each will continue to say that it does. So we have to focus on the spiritual and moral values that bring us together.