How our national identity has changed in significant and unexpected ways since the attacks of 9/11
Beautifully written and carefully reasoned, this bold and provocative work upends the conventional wisdom about the American reaction to crisis. Margulies demonstrates that for key elements of the post-9/11 landscape—especially support for counterterror policies like torture and hostility to Islam—American identity is not only darker than it was before September 11, 2001, but substantially more repressive than it was immediately after the attacks. These repressive attitudes, Margulies shows us, have taken hold even as the terrorist threat has diminished significantly.
Contrary to what is widely imagined, at the moment of greatest perceived threat, when the fear of another attack “hung over the country like a shroud,” favorable attitudes toward Muslims and Islam were at record highs, and the suggestion that America should torture was denounced in the public square. Only much later did it become socially acceptable to favor “enhanced interrogation” and exhibit clear anti-Muslim prejudice. Margulies accounts for this unexpected turn and explains what it means to the nation’s identity as it moves beyond 9/11. We express our values in the same language, but that language can hide profound differences and radical changes in what we actually believe. “National identity,” he writes, “is not fixed, it is made.”
“As immensely readable and accessible as it is profound and vital to an informed debate about everything from our religious views to terrorism and civil liberties, this book is a challenge to lazy thinking and conventional wisdom, by liberals and conservatives alike. With it, Joe Margulies catapults into the pantheon of eminent public intellectuals.”—Raymond Bonner, author of Anatomy of Injustice
"Few lawyers have fought harder against the post 9/11 encroachments on civil liberties and human rights than Joe Margulies. In his disturbing, incisive and provocative new book, Margulies argues that the so-called "war on terror" continues to warp America's character. Margulies issues a clarion call that every thinking person should heed."—Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker
“[A] provocative study. . . . an important text for understanding how and why America has changed in the past decade.”—Publishers Weekly
“Is the country ready to resume a peacetime response to terrorism? Joseph Margulies’s eloquent new book, What Changed When Everything Changed: 9/11 and the Making of Nation al Identity, provides helpful guidance.”—David Cole, The New York Review of Books~David Cole, The New York Review of Books