One of the sadder consequences of the near decade of war and violence that has followed the attacks of 9/11 is that so many people are convinced that we are in a clash of civilizations divided along religious fault lines. The rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric in Europe and the continued attraction of radical antinomian Islam in parts of the Muslim world attest to this situation.
We live in an era of economic anxiety. There have been other such eras, but this one seems particularly acute. Though the actual fortunes of Americans differ widely, there is a shared sense of something not right. That sentiment acts as a negative glue, binding Americans in a collective malaise.
In February, when President Obama signed a $787-billion stimulus bill, there was little question where the money would come from. The U.S. Treasury would print up bonds, and the Chinese government would buy a large share of them. After all, if the U.S. economy was to ever really tank, China's $1-trillion investment in U.S. debt would tank too. And who then would be left to buy a third of China's exports?
It's frequently said that the United States is a young country, but with 150 years of colonial history plus 225 years since the Declaration of Independence, we are starting to accumulate some serious history.