Tuesday, January 22, 2002

QUARE: Eve also has the link to this TAP piece from Robert Putnam. Putnam reports that levels of trust between the various American ethnicities are up, as is trust in the government and "political consciousness." Putnam thinks this is a good thing and wonders how long it can be sustained, whereas Eve seems to regard it as a natural and good response to a huge disaster that will diminish as the disaster retreats into the past. This has to do with the fundamental individualism of Americans, Eve says:

Americans like to be left alone. We don't want the government, or our neighbors, interfering in our private affairs, and we're pretty willing to leave other people alone in return. But most people fail to notice that lying hidden under that desire for privacy is an impulse to help others when they truly need it.

September 11 proved this surprising fact. New York City, known for its callous rudeness, suddenly became the most charitable, caring, friendly place in America. The rest of the country, too, immediately put aside its shell of isolation as people reached out to one another in the face of tragedy.

I think this is the strength of America. We know when to come together and when to stay apart. An excess of civic feeling leads to a loss of personal freedom, as governments try to "make things better" for everyone. The American attitude is "I'll leave you alone until you need me," and we know exactly when that is.

Good post.

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