I was going to post this blog article yesterday, but decided not to: Yesterday was about mourning those who were lost, and grieving with America to the south. September 11 is about grief and shock; September 12 is about asking questions, and wondering why. September 12 begins the long quest for answers, and to rebuild “normal” after it has been shattered.
Must confess, 15 years ago I had no clue what really happened in New York yesterday. All I knew was something awful happened, and there were no cartoons on TV. On September 11, 2011 I was only days into my first year at middle school. I was in Ottawa, a city I moved to back in January, and trying to navigate the life between elementary and high school. Not being a teenager, but not being a child anymore either.
Back then, the only thing I knew about New York City was it always seems to get destroyed first in disaster movies, was really big, and Spider-Man protected it. I had no clue about the World Trade Centre, never mind what terrorism was. Hijacking was a brand new word, and all I knew about hijackers was that they took away all the cartoons on that particular Tuesday. I know, not exactly sympathetic. Then again, it’s hard to sympathise about an event that happened in another country as a lowly preteen, especially when said preteen didn’t know anyone who was in the middle of it, didn’t quite comprehend the consequences of such an act beyond no cartoons on TV, and had no clue about any of the parties involved.
Thankfully, I have grown up since then. I understand now how horrific 9/11/2001 was, and I have been to New York to see the giant hole left in New York City, both literally and figuratively. As an adult, I understand the gravity of what happened and how the 21st century really started on that day, not January 1, 2000. To my American readers, and all those who were affected by it: I mourn and grieve with you, and not just because I lost of day of cartoons! We lost our sense of security in North America, over 1000 people lost their lives, New York City lost an icon, and the world came to the realisation a new kind of warfare was being manufactured under its nose.
It was a horrifying, tragic day that brought USA and the rest of the Western world face to face with terrorism according to the 21st century. It yanked us out of the post-Cold War complacency into the trenches against a new threat to our way of life. No rest for the “wicked”, so the “good guys” cannot truly rest easy.
One thing I found myself asking during the 15th anniversary is Were the terrorists successful another way? I ask this because ever since September 11, 2001, the Western world has been about security. Security against hijackers, security against other forms of terrorism, and security against radical Islam. I can concede some of those security measures were necessary, and I am glad they were implemented.
The problem is the discussion never really stopped; instead, the discussion keeps coming back to security. The rise of ISIL and the Islamic state in the 2010s exasperates the discussion. How many ways can countries become secure to ensure things like planes being flown into skyscrapers do not happen again? These days the discussion is no longer about fighting Al Qaeda or securing airports, but whether immigrants should be allowed in at all!
“We should be increasing screening to weed out people who have backgrounds that indicate that they have been involved in terrorist organizations or militant organizations that pose a threat to the country” – Tony Clement, Leadership Candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada in Globe and Mail
I fear that World Trade might be dying a second death due to these security discussions: Countries want to be more secure, but at the extent of being good neighbours in this increasingly globalized world. Instead of globalization, countries are deciding to crawl back into their own territory with the doors locked from the outside. For example in the USA, presidential candidate Donald Trump wants barr Muslim immigrants from entry into the USA, and build a wall across the American-Mexican border. In the United Kingdom, Brexit won. In winning, UK-ers voted to reject the cross border, cross currency, and cross trade freedom between members of the European Union for being on its own. The immediate result? Terrorist attacks by white citizens in the UK against black people, and other immigrants, in their country. It seems they like taking over the world, but not the world coming to them.
In Canada, those bidding for leadership of the federal Conservative Party in Canada are appealing to the fear of ISIL and fear of immigrants being ISIL agents disguised as people looking for a new life in Canada. Kellie Leitch, one of the candidates running for leadership of the party, talks about screening immigrants of anti-Canadian values to make sure they do not get into the country. (Did she forget that she is an immigrant, since she’s not native Canadian? Did she also forget the terrorist plots against Canada were planned by people from within Canada, not without?) She continues talking about Canadian values are something immigrants should conform to. What are Canadian Values? In his statement about the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Justin Trudeau gave an example of it:
“While 9/11 will long be remembered as a day of destruction and terror, let us also remember it for the remarkable humanity that was shown in such a tragic time. May we never forget the countless Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, who opened their hearts and their homes to those affected by the attacks.“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie and I encourage Canadians to remember the tremendous outpouring of goodwill shown on 9/11 by participating in charitable and community activities, and other worthy causes across the country, as part of the National Day of Service.”– Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, Statement by the Prime Minister on Anniversary of 9/11 and National Day of Service
Don’t get me wrong, ISIL should be stopped, and I do think security is important. I lock the door to my room, I have passwords for my online items, and I am often the first person to warn people against potential online scams. Security is important, and countries do have the right to protect themselves. However, security becomes a problem when it is at the expense of one’s values. While the two are not mutually exclusive, one can weed out the other if the balance is tipped. I fear the balance may be tipping, and in such tipping the push for equality that the Western world has built up over the last century thanks to universal education; the movement for equal rights for women, non-white people groups, and LGBTQIAA peoples; and rights to freedom of speech, expression, travel, religion, and knowledge will fall a part from the inside.
The Western world has spent the last century building nations that champion all of those things. It would be a real shame if September 11, 2001 marked beginning of the implosion of such values in the name of national security. This September 11, 2016 and onward into the second decade of the 21st century may we not let the terrorists win by imploding on ourselves in the name of fear.