Fifteen years ago today three co-workers and I were travelling to tour a correctional facility and meet with administrative staff. We didn’t have the radio on during the drive, so we had no idea what had happened until we arrived at the complex.
On the way home we silently listened to the radio to learn all we could. Then once I was back at my apartment I was glued to the TV for much of the next 3 days. I was afraid. I was terrified. And yet I lived over 9 hours away from DC, where the nearest plane hit. I cannot imagine the terror felt by those of you who live in the northeast or D.C. areas.
9-11 changed our way of life, and not necessarily for the better. Here are just some of the ways things have changed.
Overnight, all Muslims became the enemy. Americans decided every Muslim was either a terrorist or was harboring one. Bigotry and hatred shown toward those of Middle Eastern descent and/or the Muslim faith skyrocketed. There were protests against mosques, persons subjected to verbal and physical assaults, and then there was the war on the way Muslim women dress. Fifteen years later a presidential candidate accuses Muslims of celebrating in the streets of New Jersey on 9-11 (there is no evidence anything like that happened) and a significant portion of the population feels Syrian refugees should not be allowed in this country because of their religious beliefs.
We invaded two countries that we are still unable to extract ourselves from. We went into Afghanistan in retaliation for the Taliban allowing Osama bin Ladin to hang out there. We entered Iraq without credible evidence of a need for us to invade, and the ensuing mess helped fuel the rise of the Islamic State. We went into those countries without adequate equipment to keep our soldiers safe. Parents were fundraising to send their kids flak jackets and soldiers were piecing together metal plates to protect their vehicles. And there’s that privatization of certain aspects of the military. There were more private military contractors deployed to the Middle East than actual soldiers.
Flying became an invasion of privacy. We all have to walk through body screening devices, and some of us are subjected to hands-on searches. Our luggage is searched. Our carry-on bags cannot have liquids. Mothers were scrutinized because they carried breast milk. The elderly and disabled were harassed because of medications and medical devices. Women wearing head scarves were routinely called out for searches and forced to remove their head covering. And some people find out they have been wrongly placed on a no-fly list (but they can still buy an assault rifle). The worst part? We’ve accepted giving up our civil liberties as a small price to pay to feel safe, even though experts have concluded that much of the increased screening is not making anybody safer.
The militarization of police forces intensified. We now have medium sized towns with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, armored vehicles, night vision equipment, flash bang grenades and tons and tons of assault rifles and ammo. SWAT teams who used to be available only in large cities and only called out to handle crisis situations such as hostage situations are now regularly used to serve search warrants and police minority neighborhoods. And this was all done with the federal government’s blessing and without public discussion.
Patriotism became a conservative white standard the rest of us are repeatedly beat over the head for not meeting. Patriots are gun-totin’, flag-waving and car-covered-with-angry-sayings-on-bumper-stickers kinda folks. Gotta wear a tie pin to be a patriotic politician. Gotta salute or put your hand over your heart and for godssake, don’t you DARE KNEEL during the playing of the national anthem, otherwise you’re not a true American and deserve to be cursed out and threatened on social media. Only Christians are true patriots, though they include Catholics and Jews in their fold. The military (and the militarized police) is sacrosanct. And even though you’re an American citizen, a rich white guy can publicly call your citizenship into question because you are black and your dad was Kenyan. People would have never toyed with such idiotic speculation before 2001.
This company was also shamed so harshly (and rightfully so) they have closed their doors indefinitely.
Anyone who engages in peaceful protest is a terrorist. Terrorism is defined as, “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Black Lives Matter are accused of being terrorists because they call out racial injustice. Occupy Wallstreet was investigated by the FBI as possible domestic terrorists. Neither group has used or condoned violence or intimidation as a means of getting their message out. Ironically, the Planned Parenthood shooter is not considered a terrorist, even though his aim was political. Oh, and all Muslims are suspected by some Americans. Domestic terrorists are just as likely to be loner white guys with an arsenal of guns, but we don’t seem to be worried about them shooting up movie theaters or elementary schools. Just let me say this: suspecting all Muslims of terrorism is like accusing all Christians of being similar to the Westboro Baptist Church.
After the attacks, our leaders said our nation would refuse to live in fear. But that didn’t happen, did it? We are still so afraid that we’re willing to give up our civil liberties and our country’s unity because of it.
In that respect, I fear the terrorists won.