Americaʼs reaction to 9/11 attacks provokes fear, gives terrorists strength
September 17, 2010
It’s that time of year again. September 11. We all remember that unfortunate day. Whether you were in school, with classes paused to gape at the aftermath, or at home watching the news before work, it was a trying time for our country. Unfortunately, almost a decade later, we’re still trapped by this national tragedy. I hate being the bearer of bad news, but we have to move on.
While honoring the memories of those lost is always an admirable deed, the very nature of our attackers means that we cannot continue these nationwide requiems. Slogans such as “Never Forget” highlight the counterproductive way we memorialize the victims. Unlike other, similar events from the past, we are not fighting a war against an opposing nation. We are fighting people. Their strength does not come from the weapons they have, or the victims they kill. It comes from the memories of those who are still alive. It comes from the way we react without thinking. It comes from our fear.
America’s initial reaction to the 9/11 attacks was, probably, exactly as Al Qaeda had hoped. We invaded Afghanistan out of anger and simultaneously stripped away at our own rights, accusing and imprisoning our own citizens out of fear. The truth is the terrorists are a gang. They don’t have the firepower to destroy a nation. They threw the first punch and watched as we began to destroy ourselves.
However, there is a correct way to combat terrorism. Unfortunately, America simply does not foster the proper climate. We have a media which loves ratings and a government which loves power. Fear of an enemy and obsessing over the victims has benefit to both of those branches, as well as the enemy themselves. Our levels of hysterical journalism and reactionary government have made us into the perfect victims, and it’s only hurting us more.
Once we stop being afraid, stop being provoked and stop reacting without thought, we stop being victims. Anyone wishing to challenge this notion simply has to look around themselves. Even today we have people living in the shadow of 9/11. These people are afraid and angry, turning their emotions outward. However, because Al Qaeda doesn’t have borders, flags or symbols, they lash out at the wrong targets. They burn the books of a faith which only barely resembles Al Qaeda’s perverted dogma. They attack their fellow citizens for the crime of having a certain name or country of origin. In blind rage, the people angriest at the terrorists become the weapon of the terrorists.
On July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers attacked the public transportation system in London, England. The British government’s response wasn’t closing down all methods of public transportation for the next several months; they didn’t give a zealous speech of justice and vengeance and they didn’t react radically. People just went right on with their lives. They got on buses and trains to return to work the next day. The people of London viewed the attacks as they really were: another futile attempt by desperate people to disrupt their lives and shatter their spirit. They viewed the act with derision, not fear.
Perhaps America just needs time. England has existed longer than us and dealt with similar troubles, such as the IRA, as well as graver troubles, such as the Blitz. However, that does not mean we can’t take a page from their book and learn from their experiences. We all can do our best to fight terrorism without even touching a gun. We just have to continue living: bravely, calmly and unflinchingly against their efforts. Make them more scared of you than you are of them.
Leo Alberti is a creative writing major. Besides writing, he enjoys reading novels, debating and plotting world domination.