The news keeps arranging itself to tell us things.
In Washington, the House chamber presents a convivial scene, with members' children and grandchildren looking on, as Nancy Pelosi, in a tangle of handshakes and air kisses, turns over a huge gavel to John Boehner and resists a likely impulse to crown him with it.
In Pakistan, they transfer power differently. A "liberal" provincial governor is unseated by his bodyguard's bullets for mildly criticizing the country's blasphemy law, which demands death for anyone who insults Islam. Five hundred Muslim clerics praise the killer, who is being hailed as a national hero.
Self-congratulation for our civilized behavior might be tempered by realization that Pakistan is a crucial US ally, into which we have been pouring billions in the hope that a stable government there will help keep us safer from Middle East terrorism.
Even worse, after approval of a new START treaty with the Russians last month, worries about a confrontation should focus less realistically on the superpowers than on what an unstable nuclear Pakistan might do, under radical pressure, in its long-running tensions with India. No amount of our money and "diplomacy" can keep us safe from that.
The passions that will roil in the new Congress seem comparatively manageable. As Gail Collins puts it:
"The House on Wednesday was all about change, change, change, beginning, of course, with the new speaker.'Be it providence or destiny, a man of uniquely American values has been called,' intoned Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas in a nominating speech for John Boehner. 'He has lived the American dream and will protect it for our posterity.'
"Nononono, Representative Hensarling! You do not want to talk about John Boehner and the American dream, because he will start to cry and we’ll never get through this.
"Sure enough, Boehner pulled out a handkerchief."
Better that than a gun.