Rex Murphy shares his thoughts on four days of heartache for our neighbours to the south.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

Our tormented neighbours to the South are going through an unsettling, fraught, tragic period.

Up till last week - who could have thought that a famous sporting event - with a world  audience and participation, could become a brutal bloody killing zone?

Who dreamed someone would bomb the Boston Marathon?

That was followed by the Ricin scare to members of Congress - and the President.

And then, the third cross - that monster explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas just last night, where the number of dead and injured is even greater than the toll of the Boston bombing.

The United States is back, some 12 years on, to something like the atmosphere of the World Trade Center attack - of anxiety, the shedding of public confidence, a diffuse but profound unsettledness, of failing trust.

We might take one observation from all this - how quickly we can be shifted from one state to another, how the enduring codes of tolerance and civil restraint can on the pivot of terror inspired events, be twisted or shattered. 

How quickly we move into darker territory where either fanatics or terrorists find murderous rationalizations for acts of immense violence and pain perpetrated on innocent people and children.

The state of politics does not help. Who turns to politics or politicians  for inspiration, trust, understanding or conviction?  Phrases tumble out of the public mouths but they carry  little power and less conviction. Words are dead before they escape the page or prompter.

A little bit of Churchill or Lincoln would go a long way these days.

Leaders, President or Congress, Republican or Democrat - have not met this moment, nor has there been from 9/11 any moment of enduring solidarity, common approach and response, to threats of this kind - whether organized jihad or domestic terrorism.

Instead, even tragedies are manipulated to make political pot shots  Sides have their "preferred" type of villains  - one columnist desperately wants "him" to be a "white male." Others are "hoping" it's right wing militia, and of course others - Muslim.

That whole concept is vile. Tragedies don't come with predetermined villains, conveniently suiting our biases. Colour or creed do not denote agency ever.

The United States needs to reach heroically for the now old idea that there are events that rattle the entire civil order,  threats to the peace and contentment of all its citizens - that demand common, national response

It is not a party's position, but the nation's soul, its own sense of security and well-being that is under test.

This is a moment for inspiration and determination, a return to the ancient and apparently all but forgotten notion of  statesmanship - speaking the voice of country over party.

That would be a real tribute to those killed and maimed at the marathon - the United States finding itself again, shedding the rancour and vanity of its current partisan divide

For The National, I'm Rex Murphy