By Sylvia Gurinsky
For the most part, the experiences of the Great Depression and World War II turned this country, at least for a time, into something better than the ideal the Founding Fathers set out.
The experience of 9/11 - or how this country has reacted to it - has turned it into something far worse.
No thanks to deregulation and the proliferation of anything-goes cable television, the United States had already been lurching in a darker direction even before Sept. 11, 2001.
But the reactions to 9/11 - the lack of request by political leaders of anything even resembling shared sacrifice, the mistrust and hatred of Muslims that continues today and the dual lives of those who serve and those who don't - "Soldiers went to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan as America went to the mall" - has made matters worse.
So has the coarsening of culture, particularly on commercial television, polluted with so-called "reality shows" with people who have no transferrable skills, other than throwing around insults. And especially on so-called "cable news," which has made American politics their dirtiest since the Boss Tweed days.
So has the distintigration of American journalism, which no longer holds lying politicians to account.
We've lost our compassion. Oh, we can be generous when a natural disaster takes place in Haiti, Japan or Joplin. But as a country, we've lost the ability to work together on a daily basis.
Many who profess to be people of faith - including a lot of politicians - seek to divide, rather than unite.
All of that is no tribute to the more than 3,000 innocent men, women and children of different nationalities, religions, races and so on who lost their lives on 9/11.
They were united in living better lives. For their memories, when are we going to start to do the same?