In a Post-9/11 Decade

Lives across the world were changed on September 11, 2011. To see America — the protector of the global community, the “world police” — in such a time of sheer weakness and delicacy was unsettling for so many citizens on Earth.

But it was the response of the United States that I think the world paid most attention to. And that is what I’d like to focus on here.

Professor P.J. Crowley said in his post,

The international focus included what happened on 9/11, but even more on what the United States did in its wake. Rightly or wrongly, the world saw an overreaction in the declaration of a global war on terror, the costly intervention in Iraq, and the disregard for international norms and the rule of law that the United States always championed. The world has long resented American power even as it respected America’s dominant role. It worries about what it sees in America now, a superpower divided politically, distracted by a decade of war and uncertain in the face of the on-going economic crisis.

He makes a good point here. Whether or not the U.S. truly overreacted to the tragedy of 9/11 is arguable. What is for sure is that our reaction to the 9/11 attacks created a strange aura across the nation — I think that can be attributed to a prolonged national fixation on the forces included in the 9/11 narrative. I think what we see now is a paranoid sentiment throughout the country. This manifests itself in the PATRIOT Act, prolific racial profiling, and transportation security rules, among others.

The PATRIOT Act seems to be the opposite of what our constitution-fixated country would want. Unwarranted government intrusion into our private, personal communication? Talk about paranoia. I understand the desire to want to protect the country by monitoring any potential terrorist correspondence, but when it is legal to wiretap anyone’s phones and emails without consent I think a line has been crossed. Limit it to terrorist targets.

An increase in racial profiling is also a byproduct of our post-9/11 aura. States across America are passing laws basically legalizing racial profiling in the name of security. Far too often do we find ourselves second guessing a dark skinned, turban clad passenger on our airplane. There are people who have become so anti-Muslim that it is horrifying (read: Herman Cain). Now, it’s true that September 11 was not the beginning of our tensions with the Middle East. But the post-9/11 America in which I live seems so dangerously ignorant and scared of seemingly Muslim people. 9/11 produced a decade of ignorance and paranoia.

Like Professor Crowley writes, this post-9/11 aura is seen by the world and we need to know we are setting standards and examples. I do think America is a safer place after 9/11, but maybe it is too safe — and we cannot sacrifice civil and personal liberties for the sake of over securing our country. We need to eliminate the aura of ignorance and paranoid created by the reaction to the events on September 11, 2001.