Notes for US History students:

The Mexican war is the representation of Manifest Destiny. Part of an unraveling? Hardly. Calling it a war is almost an overstatement. Sectionalism has its roots far behind the period stated and existed at least from the time of the Hartford convention when marginalised New England representatives considered breaking off from the union, until Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans helped raise a new spirit of nationalism. That said, the war of 1812 was not a high, merely the end battle, (which, oddly enough, took place after the war) seeing as the USA got its ass more or less kicked. The war itself helped to provide the impetus for the Hartford convention. A rather striking omission to most lists is Jeffersons embargo, where he put the economy in paralysis. Panic after Panic could be placed on the list. The Red Scare is after WWI and definately smacks of Crisis, but that is before 1929. If William Jennings Bryan and his crusade for bimetallism qualify as an awakening, then pornographic novels qualify as high literature. (Which is to say, it is hard to convince factory workers in urban areas that inflation is the answer to their problems.) The Progressive era was followed by a great deal of disillusionment, see: babbit, The Great Gatsby and a return to 'normalcy'. Eugene V. Debs, the ever present socialist candidate consistently polled high numbers of votes through the late 19th to early 20th century.

There certainly are turning points in American History, and history does run in cycles, but not necessarily in a predictable manner. Are we in a 'Crisis'? Not as of yet. I see no widespread panic. There is no fear of anarchy. The nation may be at war, but nobody realises it. A true historical 'crisis' must have some over-arching effects and drastically change the mood of the nation. The US didn't join in WWI because Germany sunk a boat. They joined in WWI because Wilson was an Anglophobe, Large US loans to the allies, and the fact that Germany realised the full manufacturing capacity of the United States was already against them anyway; resulting in Zimmerman Telegram, Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, etc. etc. etc.

History is not the study of sheep in panic. (Thats economics!) One man can change the mood of an era. A Crisis requires more than casualties.
response response:

Historians often have theories of history much in the way generals have theories of warfare. I'm merely pointing out the problems with the theory.

Pearl Harbor was the, "oh, finally." rather than a "WOW!" the concept that we were shocked a colonial power would challenge our superiority in the pacific at what seemed like an opportune moment is rather silly, espically when we had been engaged in an arms race with Japan following WWI. The sinking of the Lusitania, by most accounts of the time, had a very similar response as the national response to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Why didn't we snap and go kill people? Woodrow Wilson was president. I'm not denying that these currents exist, i'm just denying that they have the power you think they do.

The high of 1794-1822: Um, from 1800-1812 we were no where near a high. Jeffersons embargo alienated New England and during the war they almost willfully became part of Canada (hence why they escaped most of the fighting) and small numbers of smugglers contributed war materials to the British effort! Fear of a war with France, the White Terror of Chief Justice Ellsworth (The worst supreme court justice we had, ever.) Alien and Sedition Acts, plagues at the nations capital (philadelphia), the beginnings of the end for the Federalist Party. The beginning of serious Anti-Slavery agitation due to no less an authority than Ben Franklin. The idea that any part of that era is a high is utterly mistaken. If anything we went from crisis to manic depression. The Era of Good Feelings was an era of good feelings because although nothing espically great was happening, nothing espically bad was happening either, in contrast to the previous years.

Whatever 'turning' we are in there are certain currents that exist nationally and regionally for long periods of time which usually trump any passing feeling. Jim Crow in the white south was a result of deep seeded anger and feelings of superiority that did not just exist towards blacks, but toward poor whites. So violent was the society from antebellum onwards that the mason-dixon line was sometimes called the "Smith and Wesson line". Feelings for the necessity of Race Vindication amongst African Americans that last, I submit to you, to this day, from Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass: An American Slave, written by himself to W.E.B. DuBois's historical works and his odd capacity for jumping into dark, angry prose within them. Nationally a faith in Republican Government/Democracy (The system, not the people within it), a desire for Individualism, (Which is what makes labor unions and commies so gosh darn scary) and as in many nations, a certain form of patriotism that ranges from the imperalistic urges of Jingoism to a simple feeling that the rest of the world is silly.

I'll admit that the theory is a decent and perhaps workable theory of history, (maybe it would work a bit better if it was combined with other currents?) but its failings make other theories, for instance the idea of a reform/apathy, simply work better in most circumstances. Ultimately however, any such system can be nothing more than very broad guidelines to describe the drift of impluses which can change at a moments notice.

Although I don't think 9/11 qualifies as a 'crisis' which causes an immediate catastrophic event outside of itself (save for the individuals which created it), I believe it did burn something into the national mentality which will not be removed for some time. A certain form of rage which plays right to our patriotism. My guess, an amateur guess at best, is that it will last until at least until the 20's. My percieved results of 9/11 thus far: A new hair trigger mentality to defend the nation, the comming constriction of immigration, the return of the Two War Doctrine, a new committment of intrest to the middle east outside of oil, the abrupt yet obivous end of porportional responses, and quite possibly improved relations with China. The end of Clinic bombings? (un-american now, don't you know?)

International effects I must admit to not being so attuned to. I expect that outside most of the english speaking world people figured, "Oh, terrorism in america again. Aren't they use to that by now?".

Point i'm trying to make with that: nothing is a crisis because its after an unraveling. We could go from this to a period of unprecedented peace, or to a long and brutal war. Any event has consequences. Would 9/11 have come had we elected Al Gore? Was it calculated to draw a response from Bush specifically? We'll never know. There are responses, there are events, there are things you forget about ten minutes later, there are catastrophes. It's not a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn't usually fit perfectly.