Same as we ever were

I do not see the transformation of America in the past year that many talk about.

Perhaps that's because of my age. I have vivid memories of the profound transformation that World War II brought about – the entry of women into the work force; the inception of the movement for racial integration starting with the armed forces; displays of volunteerism and a willingness to sacrifice; a multilateral world view that enabled the country that had torpedoed the League of Nations after World War I to create the United Nations after World War II.

By contrast, the year since 9/11 left us with little more than a profusion of flags, a heightened sense of respect for uniformed public servants, and an uneasy sense of vulnerability.

Taxes are not being raised to (happily) pay for the war against terrorism. The USA Freedom Corps that President Bush launched has not taken off. The State of the Union summons to a new "culture of responsibility" to replace the "culture of selfishness" became almost a mockery when the series of financial scandals starting with Enron broke.

The Wall Street Journal records that, by 38 percent to 30 percent, the economy outranks terrorism as a priority for Americans, and 64 percent lack the confidence to invest in stocks. The Washington Post records that positive attitudes toward government, which soared after 9/11, have largely changed back. And, by a small majority, Americans believe that the country is seriously off on the wrong track.

The saturation coverage of the anniversary on Wednesday was a media field day. Television knows that it conveys emotion better than it conveys information, and the networks had to wrestle with the problem of commemorating without exploiting a day full of unsettling images.

One hears much of a greater sense of solidarity among Americans since 9/11, of public spiritedness and religious tolerance and a newfound civility in encounters in public places. But there is also increased apprehension and much bridling at the inconveniences imposed by security requirements.

In the end, I suspect, we will end up being much the way we were.

• Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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