I rise to defend—defiantly, perhaps foolishly—the notion of unity. I know the concept has taken a bashing this past month. It has been ridiculed, dismissed, and rendered banal. It has been conflated with “bipartisanship,” even though the two exist on separate metaphysical planes.

Unity has to do with principles; bipartisanship, with policies. Bipartisanship is a tactic, the product of compromise. But there is no bargaining over unity. It is a call to arms, a fighting word.

I’ve experienced pure “unity” only a few times in my life. I certainly felt it in the hours after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We lived in a small town north of New York City. Nine of our neighbors didn’t come home that night. Almost immediately, the forces of social capital in town—that is, the women—were attending to the grieving families, providing food and company and babysitting. Every family was cared for. This went on for weeks. On September 12, we heard that they needed shovels and gloves at Ground Zero. There was a rush to the local Home Depot, which was quickly bought out, the equipment stacked in front of the local firehouse.