Madeleine Elfenbein reviews Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream, which plumbs our post-9/11 national psyche:
It took only a few days for America's leaders to take us from rubble and confusion to "pretty damn clear." They did it, Susan Faludi argues in her new book, The Terror Dream, by taking us from an infinitely complicated global present to a simple, mythical American past. We recovered our national confidence by means of a retreat into "adolescent fictions," borrowed from 19th-century dime novels and mid-century westerns, which distorted our view of ourselves and the real threats we faced. Armed with false courage and blinded by these obfuscating myths, we chose the wrong targets and ended up hurting ourselves. As Faludi tells us, "There are consequences to living in a dream."
But if we take her argument, the man to blame for all this is not George W. but John Wayne, or the version of him that swaggered forth from the crypt of our national consciousness immediately after the attacks, summoned to reassure us of our fundamental goodness and indomitability. A thirsty American public tuned in to TBS's 20-hour John Wayne marathon that Christmas. Strut and bluster were back in vogue after a long hiatus, for politicians as for pundits, who broke out their most muscular and uncompromising patriotic prose.