When a university in North Carolina asked its incoming students to read about Islam, many religious and political leaders in the state went berserk. “Why read the Koran?” they asked. “Why not read the Bible?” See what I mean? Not much has changed.

The terrorist attack one year ago shocked our sensibilities, ignited our national pride and burned indelible images into the collective imagination of an incredulous people. But in the end, not much has changed.

The hard work at ground zero and the military actions in Afghanistan captured the attention of both the media and the American public. But after a year, not much has changed.

People said it had, said 9/11 changed everything. Important and influential people still say it is so, that everything has changed, including the nation, the world, the future, perhaps even the rotation of the earth.

Using some version of “nothing will ever be the same again,” leaders have transferred billions of dollars from education, health and public works to the military and are now justifying an American attack on Iraq.

The event that initiated such talk was, in a diabolical sort of way, both bold and brilliant. It destroyed buildings, disrupted commerce, discouraged travel and launched, if not a war, at least a military action. It left us traumatized. “My heart carries a bit more sadness and my stomach a bit more fear,” is the way one person put it.

But in the end, the angry terrorists have had little impact on American life.

This observation demeans neither those who have died nor those whose lives have been irrevocably altered. Their suffering has not been in vain.

Nor does it devalue those (like my sister) who have traveled to Afghanistan to establish social order or minister to human suffering. Their service, in fact, stifles the pernicious plans of those seeking to provoke a global conflagration.

In the meantime, most things have remained the same, and those that were interrupted have returned to normal. It is business, politics and religion as usual, each with its mixture of social contribution and shocking corruption.

The entertainment industry seduced us into casting 100 million votes for “an American idol,” and filmmakers had a blockbuster summer, highlighted by “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” With Olympic scandal and baseball unrest, I am indeed ready for some football!

Even church attendance is back to normal, and a pollster confirms that the entire event had no impact on the faith and values of the people.

That so-called war on terrorism? It bears increasing resemblance to earlier efforts to harness the language of battle to combat the ills of society. Consider the wars on poverty and drugs: long on rhetoric but short on success.

And for the most part we remain ignorant of world affairs, or worse: Many of us harbor deep prejudice, even hatred.

When a university in North Carolina asked its incoming students to read about Islam, many religious and political leaders in the state went berserk. “Why read the Koran?” they asked. “Why not read the Bible?” See what I mean? Not much has changed.

Some have sought to educate themselves. One person wrote, “I have read more history and politics of the Middle East in one year than I had in my prior forty-eight.”

I have read three books myself, plus scores of articles, and can now find Kabul on the map. Our state university acted in response to such demand, finally hiring its first professor of Islamic studies.

Even with all that, not much has changed. But this may not be such a bad thing; in fact, it may just be a splendid, satisfying thing!

At the least, it frustrates the stated intentions of the terrorists. They wanted to destroy and defeat; they had a plan to bring the mighty “satan” to its knees. Their activity, however, was akin to that of a gnat on a horse, hardly causing a stir—the twitch of an irritated tail perhaps, but then the eating, sleeping and running around that constitute normal life.

At the most, it illustrates the conviction that not every provocation needs a reaction. Strength of soul and clarity of mission are best revealed by a refusal to be drawn into the wacky world of small minded, shrivel-souled people.

Not much has changed. That’s just fine with me.

Dwight Moody is dean of the chapel at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.

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