Sociologist Amitai Etzioni sees one thing missing in all the polling data on American attitudes in the wake of September 11â€“anger. Last week Etzioni's Communitarian Network issued the report "American Society in the Age of Terrorism," an analysis of post-9/11 poll- ing. Unsurprisingly, the report finds more interest in family, spirituality, and volunteerism and more trust in government, though "all these effects have begun to recede, and are predicted to decline further if no new attacks occur." But "there can be little doubt that, by and large, the American people were decidedly low key in their expressions of anger at those who attacked us"â€“a very unusual response to a mass slaughter, Etzioni says.
Why so little anger? "It looks as though Alan Wolfe was right," Etzioni said. His reference is to Boston College sociologist Alan Wolfe. In his books One Nation, After All (1997)and Moral Freedom (2001), Wolfe reported that nonjudgmentalism is not just an ethic confined to the media and other elitesâ€“it has become normal middle-class morality. Wolfe found that Americans are now morally tentative and very reluctant to criticize the behavior and attitudes of others. This makes the nation far more tolerant, but it also constructs a laissez-faire moralityâ€“a presumption that almost all behavior is beyond criticism and that even destructive acts deserve understanding rather than judgment. . . .