Divided by Terror: American Patriotism After 9/11

Univ. of North Carolina. May 2021. 328p. ISBN 9781469662619. $34.95. POL SCI
Bodnar (emeritus, history, Indiana Univ.; The “Good War” in American Memory) examines the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. and argues that they and the subsequent war on terror divided the nation rather than unifying it. Bodnar argues that there were two basic American reactions to the attacks: one militaristic and the other empathetic. He explores the cultural moment of the days after Sept. 11 by summarizing public comments from families of people killed in the 9/11 attacks, as well as letters written to newspapers, and objects left at makeshift memorials. The author traces the development of permanent 9/11 memorials and the controversies surrounding them. He also explores the public response to the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and their impact on public discourse. This is a thorough work of cultural understanding that shows how conversations about war are often interwoven with conversations about the meaning of patriotism.
VERDICT A highly recommended work that sheds insight on how patriotism is formed and sustained during times of crisis. Bodnar’s work is also important for its understanding of the power of collective memory and how it has shaped American society in the 21st century.
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