Soren Miles Fesel
How 9/11 Changed America and the World
On September 11th, 2001, the United States of America suffered four organized, deliberate attacks. Four hijacked planes were involved in the tragedy that killed almost 3,000 people. Two planes struck the World Trade Center, one hit the pentagon, and another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers heroically thwarted the hijackers’ efforts.
Undoubtedly, the September 11th terrorist attacks shook the country like never before and remains the single deadliest terror strike in human history. Aside from the death toll and the images of the smoldering twin towers ingrained in our minds, the cultural, political, geopolitical, societal, and international implications extended far beyond the almost three thousand souls that were lost.
During America's pre-9/11, post-Cold War era, a sense of national identity and general nationalism was relatively low. TheU.S. had recently defeated the Soviet Union, and was by leaps and bounds, the single most dominant world superpower. Unfortunately, when the U.S. experienced the September attacks, a new enemy posed a great threat. The war on terrorism was declared. This led to a new global era of increased racism against Muslims, increased instability in the Middle East, paranoia and increased security, and a spike in American nationalism. The war on terrorism changed the very social fabric of American society in ways no one could have anticipated.
As soon as October 7, 2001, America, along with various allies, invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime because the Taliban were sheltering and supporting Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. invading a country over six thousand miles away required billions of dollars to support the war effort, worsen the humanitarian situation, and increased the resentment towards the U.S. in the Middle East.
In 2003, Iraq was invaded and the war on terrorism was likely one of the driving forces behind why American chose to invade the country. These wars the U.S. started in the Middle East killed thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan and triggered humanitarian disasters, further destabilizing the Middle East.
The 9/11 attacks saw the creation of an entire new political entity within the government. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was tasked with fighting terrorism and responding to natural disasters. But beyond politics and geopolitics, 9/11 took a toll on not only the personal lives of the American people, but on cultures and society as well.
Some of the American people suffered a change in their view of Muslims due to the attacks of 9/11. Violent hate crimes against Muslim individuals increased five-fold since the terror attacks according to the Washington Post. Before 9/11, although they still faced considerable amounts of discrimination, Muslim, Sikh, Arab and South Asian individuals faced much less hate and racism than they do now.
The post-9/11U.S. is far more nationalistic, xenophobic, and unaccepting of people who practice Islam. Although the attacks were planned by a fringe Islamic terror group far outside the mainstream of Islam, and even though Al Qaeda’s primary motivation was not founded out of religion but rather politics, the narrative was still manipulated to encompass all Muslims. The cultural shift headed by Islamophobes, and many branches of American conservatism painted all Muslims as violent terrorists. Another “common enemy” was born and spikes of nationalism began to rear their ugly heads. These massive generalizations of Muslims led to the oppression and deeply rooted hatred we see today.
American society also became more cautious, paranoid, and closed off. The travel industry took a hit as flights decreased. Many people feared finding themselves in the twisted, terrifying experience of being in a plane hijacked by a terrorist. There were also many more safety checks and increased security at airports to ensure that something like 9/11 would not happen again.
Information related to 9/11 was deemed inappropriate and was often removed and censored. For example, old videos or cartoons displaying the twin towers were remade or even removed. Album covers that had images of the towers or planes in midair were replaced with something more appropriate, and songs often were strongly advised to change their lyrics to respect the tragedy that occurred. In today’s society, speaking about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in a satirical or comedic manner is regarded as extremely inappropriate.
America must learn one fundamental thing from 9/11: Generalizing mass amounts of people based on the actions of a few individuals is dangerous and incredibly destructive. It is a slippery slope to go on a rampage, invading one country after the next to fulfill an arbitrary goal of revenge. For then, you are spreading exactly what 9/11 struck in the hearts of the American people– terror.