Whenever anyone threatens to break the spell of Bush-ism, as John Edwards and Michael Moore did in 2004, the Bush administration accuses that person of possessing a "pre-9/11 mindset." This is supposed to mean that the individual in question is still foolishly living in the democratic past, before the apocalypse of 9/11 eclipsed the quaint notion of a limited government, accountable to the people, and transformed the United States into the perfectly authoritarian state towards which it had always been striving. In this way the slogan implies the historical inevitability of the new authoritarian regime, and the rise of a new America founded on the principle of unalloyed militarism.
As I argued in my last post, however, the vast majority of the American people and the Bush administration have long differed over the true meaning of 9/11, which brought out the best instincts in most Americans and the absolute worst in the President. Then what might be the true meaning of a "pre-9/11 mindset" if we stick to the mainstream interpretation of 9/11? Consider the following alternative vision of the year 2005:
A pre-9/11 mindset is one which fails to recognize the great call to civic duty which 9/11 issued. In the pre-9/11 world, Americans were foolishly divided over insignificant controversies, distracted by the trashy ephemera of popular culture, insufficiently attentive to world affairs, and alienated from their own political institutions by apathy and ignorance. But 9/11, as they say, changed everything. No longer could Americans afford to allow our most cherished institutions to decay from neglect and misuse. 9/11 demanded the revival of democratic participation in this country. For politicians, 9/11 was a wake-up call to put aside partisan politics and join in the great task of protecting and revitalizing the nation. The corporate agenda which had dominated Washington since time out of mind was put aside in favor of a sincere focus on the public good. The government put aside its focus on regressive tax cuts and instead focused on fiscal discipline. Public works projects sprang up, donations of time and money increased, and the nation was suffused with a spirit of bi-partisan cooperation and self-sacrifice which no one had even thought possible just a few short years before. Of course, there were a few who maintained a "pre-9/11 mindset," lobbying against the regulation of businesses vital to national security, pushing for continued spending on obsolete big-ticket weapons systems rather than improved intelligence and border security, and defiantly continuing to drive the gas-guzzling SUV's which 9/11 had rendered archaic, but these were few and far between. Overwhelmingly, most Americans accepted the lessons of 9/11 and the ways in which that day awoke America from its slumber and changed this nation for the good.