September 11th always fucks with my head. It was an absolute tragedy on every single level. We were devastated. And what hurts the most is the terrorists seem to have gotten everything they wanted.
The towers went down when I was a freshman in high school. I was getting ready for gym class and a classmate told me terrorists blew up the world trade center. My initial impulse was laughter. As an incredibly insecure high school kid who grew up in the suburbs, I really had no real exposure to tragedy and suffering. I laughed because it seemed so ridiculous. But I guess that was the point. The attack worked because we were all surprised.
After that, terrorism became the new existential threat to America. I’d never really had that before. The idea of a group of nefarious people in a foreign land, plotting to randomly kill innocent people scared the fuck out of me. Worst of all, the threat seemed absolutely undefeatable. In my short 14 years of American life, I never knew an enemy that couldn’t be instantly killed by the mighty justice of my country. We beat the British, we beat the Nazis, we’re number 1 in the world and yet Osama bin Laden, according to the media I consumed, would probably never be captured.
11 years later he’s dead, Al Qaeda is on the ropes, and I’m even more pissed off. Because I’m old enough to realize that this is not an army or a nation, but on September 11th, we were defeated. We had to make some very serious decisions while we were terrified, and we absolutely gave the terrorists everything they wanted.
They wanted to radicalize American Muslims and turn them against their government. These madmen don’t respect peace and religious tolerance. Instead of standing with our Muslim brothers and sisters, it became socially acceptable to hate them. During 2010’s shameful “Ground Zero Mosque” episode, we learned that hating Muslims makes for good election year politics. Somewhere in a shitty suburban condo in Abbottabad, I’m sure Osama bin Laden was laughing his balls off. He had successfully caused the American people to rally behind the idea of telling Muslims they have no right to build a place of worship in their own country.
Our entire political discourse took a shift to the hard right, which meant throwing our civil liberties out the window to empower the government to fight against our boogeymen. The federal government can now monitor us secretly for pretty much any reason they see fit. The government is so big and intrusive, it literally touches all of our balls when we go to the airports. Our military spending has exploded and bygone values like “privacy” are never coming back because both parties because snooping and ball-touching are now bipartisan ideas.
Which is great, because shitting our pants in fear and spending tons of money are pretty much the only bipartisan things we can do these days. During 9/11, the country briefly all came together. Now we’re angrier and more divided than ever. We hate each others guts, we’re totally broke, and we’re still not over September 11th.
We didn’t learn a damn thing from September 11th. It was an ugly moment in history, and it’s made us an uglier people. We will eventually move past this, but we’re not anywhere close yet.