February 25th, 2010
12:27 PM ET

'America the miserable' prof: U.S. isn't the same

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/25/art.wh.exterior.jpg caption="Patrick Allitt says U.S. optimism has been 'beaten out' of country in recent years."]

Wayne Drash

The optimism once held by many Americans has been "beaten out" of them amid a lagging economy, threat of terrorism and two ongoing wars, according to a professor at Emory University.

"All of those things ... have made people start to be much more doubtful than they used to be," says Patrick Allitt, a British citizen who teaches American history.

Allitt recently wrote about what he describes as "America the miserable" - the mood swing he has seen in his 30 years in the U.S. - for The Spectator, a British magazine.

Allitt spoke with CNN about his perspective. Below is a transcript of that conversation, which has been edited:

CNN: How would you describe the change in America since you first came to America?

Allitt: The change is this: I don't get the same sense of intense self confidence as I used to feel when I first came to America, even though that was a period that's usually remembered as a pretty grim time - the Jimmy Carter years when there was a lot of stagnation and inflation and a general feeling of malaise. Even so, to me, it seemed incredibly energetic here. People in America worked much, much harder than they did in Britain. They seemed more upbeat. They had faith in progress. And there was this feeling of being intensely wide awake for the first time. But now, I think some of that optimism has been beaten out.

Counter: Why there's reason for optimism

It's been a very tough 10 years since 2001, hasn't it? The attack on the World Trade Center, the growing fear of terrorism, the difficulty of prevailing in the wars, obviously, more recently the recession. All of those things, collectively, have made people start to be much more doubtful than they used to be.

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Filed under: Economy • Terrorism • Voting
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Toni Cameron

    Very true in my opinion, but not carried far enough. As this is happening in all countries around the world, not just the USA.

    February 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  2. Katy Sharpe

    This country has had years and years of excess and young people are much more cynical about working hard, or working at low level jobs for "the man." Young people don't have the same vision of American progress that people born in the 30s, 40s or 50s do. The current philosophy seems to be, "What's in it for me?" There is no special desire to do more, because there is no place to go for a lot of young people – the movement is lateral, not upward. The US is definitely changing it's 'tude. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

    February 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  3. Rev. Brooks Barrick

    I was on a conference call with our missionary to Haiti. I will hold onto what he said about the Haitian people. "Death will not Prevail!" We, too, must find a sense of hope in the anxiety and fear that thrives in our neighborhoods, cities, nation and world. Death will not prevail!

    February 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  4. Tim Gibson

    Anyone who remained awake to the world knows this began much earlier than 2008 or before the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

    It was trust that our leadership had our best interest at heart, a trust that becomes more and more revealed as abuse of power, and a power that has grown beyond the limits of reason and turned into control and invasion.

    February 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  5. Diana holland

    I agree somewhat with him! I think the reason people still had passion and a stronger work ethic when Jimmy Carter was in office and the economy was a mess, americians still had the feeling we still believed in the goverment to allow people to make there own decisions and could be anything they wanted to be !! And yes even wealthy if they worked hard!!! Now with the govt wanting to to be So involved with EVERYTHING and terrorism becoming worse , people don't know wher to turn or to who. The goverment does not seem to care!! They all have their own agendas! They think if you disagree with their proposed policies your not a good American!! Eg .. Tea parties hm!

    February 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm |