As many people know, September 11 is the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks were carried out by the terrorist group known as Al-Qaeda. The attacks resulted in 2,996 deaths and 10 billion in property damage making it the deadliest terrorist attack in United States history. The day, known as 9/11 is regarded as one of the greatest tragedies in the US. In line with that, many places teach about and commemorate the event. 9/11 has touched many Americans and their families, as many know of friends and family affected by it. 9/11 is often regarded as one of those days that everyone knows where they were and what they were doing, much like the JFK assassination and Pearl Harbor, for example. Because of staggering loss of life, and the malicious intent behind it, 9/11 is very emotionally charged. Feelings of anger, injustice, hatred toward the perpetrators run high as well as strong feelings of patriotism and nationalism flare up on such occasions.
Because of all that, the usual perspective is that of an emotional one when talking about the events. With the loss of friends and family, due to malicious people, it is only natural. One can read plenty of speeches and articles telling you all about how morally aberrant and devastating 9/11 was, or about how we as a nation must be more patriotic and stick together and denounce certain groups, countries and cultures. Even in history classes in school, it is addressed that way. However, even though many may agree with points brought up in such discussions, it’s not the only way to look at it.
9/11 is a historical event, yes, it is still very current, but it is a major event, like Pearl Harbor or the JFK assassination before it and will have a place in the history books from now on. This blog is about history, and as such, will look at it like any other major historical event. One can rant about how horrible and tragic 9/11 was, or come up with some inspiring patriotic speech, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you will find it no problem. However, that’s not history, that’s a bunch of contemporary opinions soon to be primary sources, which do have tremendous value for the future historians out there, so keep it up, but I propose something different this time. I want to look at it through a historical and analytical perspective, as opposed to an emotional perspective.
I wonder what 9/11 did for our country from a historical perspective… What are the cultural and political ramifications of 9/11? What is different about this post-9/11 world from the world that the US once was in? How will 9/11 affect our future decisions as a nation in regards to national security and terrorism? And How do game-changing events like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor or the JFK assassination affect our country in general? among others. I think, that 9/11 had the greatest impact on the US politically and culturally. Politically, it is cited as the trigger to start the “War on Terror”, which is currently making more history as we speak. We are over in the Middle East trying to quell terrorist groups getting hold of countries over there. Also, the 9/11 attacks heightened national security concerns and makes the US government ever aware of terrorist threats. The most common sight of it is at places like airports and major events, security and surveillance is ever increasing. Since 9/11, the nation is on high alert to terrorism. Also, culturally it has made it’s impact. The American people think of terrorism more than ever before. Society has become more aware, paranoid as some may say,to terrorism. The best analogy to the attitude of terrorist threats is that of medieval people fearing raids from the vikings. Terrorism is very real, and scary in people’s minds. One never knows when they’ll strike next. 9/11 has also had the effect of making people more suspicious of those who are different, if one does not subscribe to the feelings of the group, they can often be labeled a terrorist sympathizer. Conformity is often stressed when a society feels threatened by the outside and outsiders are treated with suspicion and contempt. Overall, American society has been profoundly affected by 9/11. Our culture has changed drastically since.
The other thing I want to think about is looking at 9/11 from an analytical prospective. Could we have prevented it? Was it totally out of the blue or was there warning signs? Did someone drop the ball, so to speak? What can we do to prevent further attacks? Can we be aggressive in fighting terrorism, without forgoing the values and ethical conduct we prize in our country in order to defeat it? And How can we, as a nation, strike a balance between keeping our people safe, yet not encroaching on civil liberties? Other important questions in my mind are: What drives people to terrorism in the first place? Why do some believe violence is a way to spark change and is it ever justified? Are there problems we can alleviate so people don’t look to terrorist groups for the answers? among others. I think those are very hard questions to answer, and none will ever have a 100% definitive answer. However, they can certainly be addressed and must. I think that we should’ve been more prepared. Before, we didn’t believe such a thing could happen, but it did. I think the freedom vs. security issue is very important to think over. In a country that prizes freedom, how can we keep people safe, but still not be a paranoid police state? I don’t have a definitive answer on how to do that myself, but I will say that personally, I think the terrorists would win if the US had forgone it’s core values and ethical standards in trying to stop terrorism. The US shouldn’t give up it’s identity in order to try to protect it’s identity. The other issue to think about also is what makes people turn to terrorism? Why would an individual feel that violence is the only way to make change? I think once people find that out, they can stop the cycle. Often, the future terrorists are disillusioned in some way and feel vulnerable. Often, impressionable young people join those groups to feel a sense of security and get their needs met. They feel that the world is unjust and needs to change, and the group offers an easy, quick solution: violence. It’s not that too far off from why youth could join a gang here in the US. I think one effective way to stop a problem, is to stop it where it starts, not after it’s took it’s toll.
All in all, 9/11 can be looked at from many different perspectives. Analytical, historical, political, anthropological/sociological, psychological, emotional, and others. What we do agree on, however, is that 9/11 changed our nation profoundly from all perspectives. And so, I’ve offered the two perspectives I find the most relevant, yet not as talked about on such sad occasions. Emotions let us think about the past, but logic and analysis let us shape the future.