Kathleen Parker

Everybody, it seems, has some connection to a horse, whether from childhood or heritage. We've been interacting with horses on some level since about 4,000 B.C., when we mostly ate them. Then we noticed that horses were also handy with carts, wagons, chariots and plows. Horses have been patient with our evolution.

Now we admire them, write books and make movies about them. Most children can't wait to ride a horse, and girls emerge from the womb demanding one. Not getting a pony has become a metaphor for childhood disappointment.

I didn't get my pony either.

On another level, Barbaro may have been the right horse at the right time. Americans love a champion, a winner, a striver. We identify ourselves by those lights. But since Sept. 11, 2001, we are plagued with doubt, anxiety and no small fear that we may not win this race against evil. Here to remind us of our weak resolve in that struggle are Fonda and Kerry, whose headlines collided with Barbaro's.

Fonda, who has never met a war she could get behind, showed up on the National Mall to protest the ``mean-spirited, vengeful'' Bush administration. Kerry showed up at an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he couldn't find anything good to say about the nation he once meant to lead.

No wonder we fell in love with a horse.

A country driven mad by partisanship found common cause in Barbaro -- an utterly neutral reservoir of hope, beauty and determination. For a while, we were all in the race with a champion, and, for a while, we were champions, too.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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