9/11. It’s a number, a date, of great significance to those of us in North America, though even now it begins to fade into memory. It seems impossible that the terrorist attacks that woke the United States to their vulnerability to international terrorism were 19 years ago already. Today, there are adults alive who never knew a world that included the World Trade Centre, or airline flights with a full-sized bottle of shampoo.
I remember it being a reasonably nice day here in Calgary, we turned the TV on, mid-morning, and didn’t leave its side until the dark of night, engrossed in the developing and looping coverage of the event. We saw the rush of the dust cloud pouring down the street a hundred times or more, watched rapt and helpless as the news gave us so much speculation and so little information on what had happened, what was happening. The terrorists had bombs, no, box cutters, the President knew ahead of time, didn’t know at all. They hailed from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, from within the US itself. We questioned what it meant for the world at large, the huge behemoth that is the US jabbed awake from its slumber. What would be the reaction now that it seemed what European and Middle-Eastern countries dealt with on a regular basis might be happening here. Would there be a great coming together? A great fragmenting?
Turns out, in the long run, it meant very little but an acceleration of the trends that were already happening. Today, an explosion tears apart a large portion of Beirut and the news loses interest after a day or two. It’s over there, not here, and it has no “side”. Besides, over here we’ve got Trump admitting he’s downplayed the seriousness of the virus purposely (although I’m not sure what the story is here, is it simply that they now have proof of what most thinking people knew?) We’ve got an ex-finance minister in breach of campaign regulations, a new leader of a conservative party that looks ever-so-much like the old one. You know, things that the ideologues love to scream at each other over about, driving hits, driving views, driving statistics that can be sold to advertisers to convince them to try to convince us to buy the things that a vast majority of us would never think of purchasing and an even vaster majority won’t ever need.
If anything, the great awakening that some thought would come from 9/11 has almost turned into more of a soporific. We, and to a greater extent the United States, have simply used the events of 9/11 to add a level of existential threat that makes all these political arguments seem more important than they likely are. Social justice warrior, those who would fight for social justice, has become an epithet. As if someone who would waste time fighting for equality is missing the bigger picture of the danger that is presented by the always awaiting “other” outside our borders.
Had you asked me ten years ago whether the attack on the Twin Towers was successful, and I would have said “On the whole, no. We still go about our daily lives, we still interfere in other nations where it suits our ends. There is no terror.” Ask me today, and I’m not so sure. It’s been a very slow burn but the bombing of the towers seems to have lit a fuse within the western world, a fuse that is fed with our own fears against those not like us, whether that be in how they look, how they vote, or who they want to help first. Fortunately, what lies at the end of the fuse is up to us. Enjoy the read!