Sunday, September 11, 2011


Erik Loomis:

Thinking about this a decade later, there's no question that September 11 is one of those events that defined a generation. But in considering my conscious lifetime, which extends back to about 1980, I wouldn’t put it higher than 4th, behind the end of the Cold War, the rise of the internet, and Bush v. Gore (and the rise of conservatism more broadly). Maybe 3rd I guess. I think future historians will break up American history in 1989 rather than 2001.

Me, I think will break up American history at Reagan's election and inauguration. What Reagan brought to American live was a break with a past (admittedly, only a few decades' worth) in which labor was assumed to have a place at the table alongside capital, and it was expected that elected officials would always worry about pushing average Americans too far. Post-Reagan, average Americans believe that we're lucky to get whatever the rich deign to provide for us. We don't stick up for ourselves as a class, and we just accept with resignation that government won't stick up for us. The regressive Reagan tax cuts did this, the breaking of PATCO did this, the valorization of wealth and glamour (including the Reagans' purported glamour, as showcased endlessly in media outlets such as Vanity Fair) did this. We've never recovered from that, and now we're on our way to the final dying out of the middle class and a banana-republic wealth distribution. To my mind, 9/11 just helped that process along, by making sure a president with a see-no-evil attitude toward fat-cat theft and fraud would stay in office eight years. Historians may well conclude that that was the most important thing about it.


UPDATE: Here's a case for marking the break at 1971, when Lewis Powell wrote his notorious memo declaring that the free enterprise system was under attack in America, a memo that spurred on the creation of the modern right-wing noise machine. I'd certainly chose that over 9/11.