Mark Lilla, as always, has an incisive account of what has happened to us in the past five years:

"All sorts of strange types emerged from under their rocks to exploit September 11 - neoconservatives longing for a war that would restore "American greatness" through militarism, legal anarchists who started rewriting the constitution, evangelicals who sensed the opportunity to launch a counter-revolution against all the cultural changes of the last four decades. None of these groups represented more than a fraction of Americans, but, together, they found the ear of a transformed president and of his political advisers, who knew how to exploit them in return. The level of American political debate sank to a new low and is now fixed on symbols - "values," "strength," "family," "security," "life," "freedom" - that bear little relation to contemporary American reality or the world situation. The '90s were a period of political maturation in United States, but, in the face of trauma, the nation has regressed to an infantile state."

The first chapter of my book is called "A Silver Age: 1989 - 2001."

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.