Jewish World Review Sept. 6, 2002 / 29 Elul 5762

Clarence Page

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Consumer Reports

A year later: A reality-check | What's changed since 9/11, besides the infamous meaning we now hear in those numbers? Everybody seems to be asking that question these days. First, let's talk about what has not changed.

Americans are more reluctant to fly, but the world's most mobile society did not stay grounded for long. Airport security has become more of a royal pain. Yet we also find some comfort in that, as we try belatedly to achieve a level of security that we should have had all along.

Some high-rise dwellers said they were going to move to less-conspicuous targets, but, outside of the tallest skyscrapers, not many "for sale" signs have sprouted. Real estate prices have remained high while the stock market collapsed.

We became more spiritual after the initial national trauma, but church attendance appears to have receded back to pre-9/11 levels, along with military recruitments.

The percentage of Americans who thought religion was gaining influence in American life surged upward in major polls, then receded like an ocean wave, according to Carroll Doherty, editor at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

The percentage who thought religion was "gaining influence" rose from about 37 percent to more than 70 percent in separate polls by Pew and Gallup after 9/11, but receded back to its usual 37 percent six months later, Doherty said.

And, although the Pentagon says there was an approximate doubling in the number of people expressing interest in the armed forces after Sept. 11, it has not resulted in a significant increase in enlistments.

Flag sales remain brisk, but polls always show patriotism running very high among Americans, Doherty said. Six months after 9/11, for example, a Pew poll found only 16 percent thought the American flag was being shown "too much." Another 16 percent thought it hadn't been shown enough and a commanding 68 percent thought, as Goldilocks might say, that it was just right.

Some pundits mistakenly declared "the end of irony." This was a premature obituary. Who could miss the irony, for example, of how President Bush, after responding with excellent eloquence to the September catastrophe, slipped into such banalities as "You're either with us or you are with the terrorists."

Oh? How about Saudi Arabia? Its leaders have done a remarkable job of staying in power as a friend to both sides. Isn't that ironic?

That's world politics. To notice such ironies one must take the time to care about the rest of the world and pay some attention to it. Americans are not accustomed to that. But with super power comes super responsibilities. In a democracy, that includes the responsibility to keep an eye on world affairs and on how well our leaders are addressing them.

So, what has changed? Our illusions.

Our illusion of security changed. When the twin towers collapsed "like a broken heart," as one young Palestinian-American woman wrote in a poem, so did our sense of invulnerability.

Our illusion of post-Cold-War isolationism changed. Suddenly we Americans were forced to realize that our military superiority, economic might, cultural power and general likeability would not only fail to protect us but actually make us an attractive target for dangerous forces in the world.

Our illusion of American exceptionalism, the sense that big-league terrorism was a problem for other countries, not us, was ended. But so, I hope, was our illusion that today's baby-boom and post-boom generations had grown too soft to respond to crises as courageously as our elders responded to the Depression and World War II.

That's why, even while irony has rebounded, there seems to be a new seriousness in American life. The reappearance of movie stars on the covers of Time, Newsweek and other major newsmagazines, displacing Donald Rumsfeld and other heavyweight newsmakers, tells us that things are indeed returning to normal or, if you prefer, abnormal.

Yet, 9/11 also left us with a new respect for the eternal vigilance on which our freedoms depend, whether in the face of outside threats or of our own leaders when their pursuit of terrorists becomes an abuse of power.

Nine-eleven reminded us of how much we, in our land of rugged individualism, depend on each other or none of us has the right to feel safe.

It forced us to slow down, work a little less, reflect a little more and get reacquainted with some of the people we too often take for granted.

And the trauma of mass death broadcast to millions from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a crash site in rural Pennsylvania sent a big message that shattered another big illusion: Don't put off until tomorrow the love you should be showing to somebody today.

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09/03/02: Make better choices before some jury somewhere does
08/20/02: Bid farewell to the Cigarette Century
08/16/02: Rights matter, even in circus trials
08/09/02: Jousting with Rumsfeld's fog of wit
08/06/02: Covert action is cool again
08/01/02: Powell's premature obituaries
07/30/02: A common sense tip on internal snooping
07/18/02: Jacko plays race card badly
07/12/02: Last flight for a pioneer airman
07/08/02: Dems will miss Watts, too
06/28/02: 'Supreme Court reads polls, too
06/25/02: 'The Body' bites, then bows out
06/21/02: Punishment first, then the crime?
06/18/02: Reporting still risky for Haiti's press
06/14/02: Bush's security plan leaves large gaps
06/04/02: Fix FBI's culture gap first
05/28/02: Fidel's new apartheid for tourists
05/21/02: Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line
05/19/02: A paradox of historical proportions
05/14/02: 'Murphy Brown' revisited in age of Ozzy
05/10/02: America looks like a model of tolerance and inclusion
05/07/02: Forget it, Bill, you're no Oprah
04/26/02: Mapping out ethnic and racial change
04/23/02: A game of another color
04/19/02: It's high time to open up pot-law debate
04/11/02: 'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes
03/22/02: Zimbabwe election leaves world sleepless
03/19/02: A slur? Where is thy sting?
03/15/02: A Pearl of wisdom for reporter's unborn son
03/12/02: Army race and gender policies on trial
03/08/02: A short list of losers to be left behind
03/05/02: Revenge of the 'mediasaurus'
02/26/02: Jihads aren't just for Muslims
02/26/02: It's hard to be 'objective' during wartime
02/19/02: Hollywood's new villain: Your HMO
02/12/02: Father of 'Manchild' leaves lasting message
02/08/02: $nookering the reparations crowd
01/31/02: Prisoners of a War of Words
01/29/02: One more Enron woe: Al Sharpton & company
01/25/02: Searching for slaves in bin Laden's attic
01/22/02: Andrew Young's newest 'friend'
01/08/02: Hard-earned lessons from 9-11
12/18/01: Whatever happened to questions about the birds and the bees?
12/14/01: The "White Negro" Taliban?
12/07/01: Jackson's turn to gloat
11/27/01: Friendly warning from a lover of liberty
11/21/01: The face of hunger is changing
11/15/01: Our troubled sense of trust
11/08/01: Lessons about terror from the 'hood
11/06/01: Getting used to the 'new normal'
11/02/01: Wicked ways to make them talk
10/30/01: It's not just about bin Laden
10/26/01: More than mail fell between the cracks
10/23/01: Terrorists threaten urban recovery, too
10/18/01: Sometimes, assassination warranted
10/15/01: Self-censorship rises again
10/12/01: Contradictions illustrate the complicated nature of the new terrorism
10/05/01: Look who's 'profiling' now
10/01/01: Don't trash liberty to save it
09/28/01: Life, love and cell phones during wartime
09/24/01: How to catch an elusive terrorist
09/21/01: The war I was waiting for
09/17/01: When rage turns to hate
09/13/01: Terror attack tests US, let's give right response
09/06/01: U.S. should have stayed and argued
09/04/01: Columbine killer's parents get upclose and personal
08/31/01: Virtual kids? Log me out
08/28/01: Two Africans, one black, one white, same fight
08/23/01: Sharpton for president
08/20/01: Shaking up the rules on keeping secrets
08/16/01: Bush's u-turn on racial goals
08/09/01: Outsider Bubba comes 'in' again
08/06/01: Not ready for 'color-blindness' yet
08/02/01: Immigration timing couldn't be better
07/26/01: Summer of Chandra: An international traveler's perspective
07/17/01: Overthrowing a régime is only the beginning
07/10/01: Big Brother is watching you, fining you
07/05/01: Can blacks be patriotic? Should they be?
06/19/01: Get 'real' about marriage
06/12/01: Amos, Andy and Tony Soprano
06/07/01: Getting tough with the Bush Twins
06/05/01: Bringing marriage back into fashion
05/31/01: "Ken" and "Johnnie": The odd-couple legal team
05/24/01: Sharpton's challenge to Jackson
05/22/01: Test scores equal (a) MERIT? (b) MENACE? (c) ALL OF ABOVE?
05/17/01: Anti-pot politics squeeze the ill
05/15/01: Was Babe Ruth black?
05/10/01: U.N.'s torture caucus slaps Uncle Sam
05/08/01: 'The Sopranos' a reflection of our times
05/03/01: 'Free-fire' zones, then and now
05/01/01: War on drugs misfires against students
04/26/01: Another athlete gets foot-in-mouth disease
04/23/01: 'Slave' boat mystery reveals real tragedy
04/19/01: McVeigh's execution show
04/12/01: Not this time, Jesse
04/05/01: Dubya is DEFINITELY his own man, you fools!
04/02/01: Milking MLK
03/29/01: The candidate who censored himself?
03/22/01: "Will Hispanics elbow blacks out of the way as the nation's most prominent minority group?"
03/19/01: Blacks and the SATs
03/15/01: The census: How much race still matters in the everyday life of America
03/12/01: Jesse is a victim!
03/08/01: Saving kids from becoming killers
03/01/01: Parents owe "Puffy" and Eminem our thanks

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