The post-Sept. 11 era was supposed to be
one of unprecedented harmony in the United States. American flags
were to cover the land in a spectacular show of patriotism.
Complete strangers were to greet one another with friendly smiles
and hellos. New Yorkers were to be polite to each other. Everyone
was to root for the Yankees in the World Series. Racism, sexism and
all the other negative “-isms” were to be forgotten.
Police, firefighters and servicemen and women were to be elevated
to the hero level typically reserved for professional athletes.
Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush were to be treated like gods.
America would finally be a utopia. From adversity comes
strength.

Kate Green

And it all happened. At least for a few days. No one could have
reasonably expected it to last any longer than that. Beneath the
veneer of national pride that the average American sported during
that time there still teemed hatred, bitterness and contempt, and
it was only a matter of time before the veneer wore off.

So things returned to normal once the post-post-Sept. 11 era
arrived. The flags got old and were put into storage, strangers
started glaring at one another, New Yorkers realized that they
hated each other again, everyone remembered that Brett Favre was
really, really good at football and it became clear that all
Giuliani and Bush did was make a few inspiring but empty speeches.
Oh well, the few days of harmony were nice while they lasted.

But the post-post-Sept. 11 era didn’t last for long,
either. We now find ourselves mired in the post-post-post-Sept. 11
era. Goodwill has dropped to a level well below that of pre-Sept.
11 times. In nearly every aspect of society, over a broad spectrum
of issues, Americans are more divided than ever. Depending on whom
you ask, George W. Bush is either the greatest president ever or
the biggest fuck-up in American history. Gay marriage is either a
great step toward equality or a sign of impending doom. The war on
terror is either going to make the nation safe from its enemies
once and for all or it will make us even more enemies that we had
pre-Sept. 11.

This post-post-post-Sept. 11 era that we are living in began
rather abruptly with the war in Iraq. The last remaining bits of
post-Sept. 11-ist goodwill passed on as we took sides on the war
and started yelling.

The Left’s respect for (or at least tolerance of) George
W. Bush was lost, while the right still touted him as a savior of
mankind, and what began with the war quickly shifted to the
president himself. Over the past several months a remarkable rift
has formed, and never has the nation been so divided over its
president. Half love the guy, half hate him and only a negligible
amount are indifferent (at least count there were three of us).
It’s gotten to the point where every move the president makes
is both heartily praised and scornfully criticized. Take his
Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad, for example. In truth it was a nice
gesture of thanks to soldiers placed in a most difficult situation,
but beyond that its implications are few. But to hear it from the
Bush supporters, it was a demonstration of extraordinary resolve
from a heroic commander in chief. And for the Bush haters, it was a
lame attempt to drum up support and cover up the fact that all is
not well in the war on terrorism.

Even Democrats and Republicans in Congress are having a more
difficult time getting along than usual. As The Wall Street Journal
reported Monday, the partisan divide in Congress is nearing a level
not seen since the Newt Gingrich years, with votes split more and
more strictly along party lines. The dividedness has become such an
issue that Reps. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and Charles Stenholm (D-Texas)
have formed a Civility Caucus in order to organize social events
aimed at healing the rift between the two parties.

It sounds nice and good, but can a wine and cheese party or a
trip to the beach really resolve such mutual hatred? Probably not,
but at least someone in Congress is trying to fix the problem.
Meanwhile the rest of the nation is ready to explode. We could be
one more Dixie Chick outburst or Toby Keith song away from civil
war without even realizing it. Something’s got to give.

Hoard can be reached at
“mailto:j.ho@umich.edu”>j.ho@umich.edu.

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