BARRY SAUNDERS: How do you fix a broken heart and country?

Posted November 4, 2018 5:00 a.m. EST

EDITOR'S NOTE: Barry Saunders has been a journalist for 38 years, much of that time as a columnist the News & Observer in Raleigh. His reporting and writing can now be found on The Saunders Report.

Ahhh, now I remember.

For a second there, I was about to forget why facing the world eyeball-to-eyeball first thing in the morning isn't a good idea - at least not without a good, stiff drink.

Of coffee?

Sure, let's say coffee.

As a journalist, you're used to waking up and turning on the news, clicking on your screen or grabbing a newspaper first thing in the morning to see what went down while you slumbered.

That way lies madness.

I don't know about you, but for ‘moi,’ the state of the world has seemed so bad that for at least the past year I've consciously taken to delaying re-entry into reality, preferring instead to wake up to a past that never was - a past of, say, ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and the quaint problems of Ward, June and the boys, problems like the hijinks that ensue when Ward reluctantly buys the Beav a brand new genuine leather jacket - $23.76, including tax - and he unwisely loans it to his pal Richard.

Or perhaps ‘Matlock,’ where you can watch Ben save some wrongly convicted sap from the electric chair in 47 minutes, not including commercials.


I prefer to call it the informational equivalent of dipping your big toe into the water before plunging in headfirst.

Saturday Oct. 27, though, for some unfathomable reason - I dove right in, eschewing the usual caution. I reached over, grabbed the clicker and intrepidly - nay, foolishly - clicked on one of the news channels.

I instantly remembered why I had stopped doing that.

"MULTIPLE DEAD IN SHOOTING AT PITTSBURGH SYNAGOGUE!!!" read the chyron scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

You know the rest.

Rabbi Jonathan Perlman (Rabbi at Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, 1994-1999), who helped hide people during the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, sought to console the community and the country: "What happened yesterday," Rabbi Perlman said, "will not break us."

Gee, Rabbi, I'd like to believe you, but I feel pretty broken right now. Looking into the faces of the mourners - both in Pittsburgh and some who attended a memorial service in Raleigh, it appeared that others feel broken, too.

I called my buddy Jeff Solash of Raleigh, who used to live in Pittsburgh and who received his chemistry degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

"My goodness," he exclaimed. "It's the 21st century. Doesn't this ever end?"

'Fraid not, Jeff.

"Judy and I, we've both been in that temple," he said of his late wife. "We didn't know any of the people who were killed, but it was shocking. So sad, so sad."

Solash attended that memorial service at Beth Meyer Synagogue the day after the massacre, a service also attended by Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper.

The sadness, he said, was overwhelming. No doubt, those there felt the same broken spirit I felt after the Charleston massacre at Mother Emanuel AME in 2015.

In "A Farewell to Arms," Ernest Hemingway wrote The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

Even though many of us are broken in heart and in spirit, perhaps we will heal eventually and be stronger in the broken places, begin again to care for the poor and not begrudge the needy and dispossessed, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

When America's spirit heals, we will look back aghast at the realization that some of us were willing to trade so much of our humanity for a tax cut, for a couple of Supreme Court appointments, for whatever.


Yep - perhaps not irreparably, but for now.

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