Editorial column: An opinion about 9/11
Special to the Kaleo
9/11 was a monumental point in history. Such an event shaped the lives and the decisions of what was to come for America in the 21 years since it occurred, a devastating event that changed millions of lives and millions of futures. Not only did 9/11 have an impact on our own public opinion and the decisions our government has made over the last 20 years regarding the military and with security, but it also had a large cultural impact on us. The media we consume, our politics, and various other things regarding American culture and pride dramatically shifted with the events of 9/11. But what school doesn’t cover a lot of times when reflecting on 9/11 is the social impact and the cycle of hate that continues in American society.
One of the largest populations that 9/11 indirectly affected the most was with the Muslim community, especially in the West and in the United States. From 9/11, feelings of mistrust and suspicion, as well as increasing stereotypes and hate crimes were heightened by the event of 9/11, with Anti-Muslim political rhetoric and policy having grown with the funding, organization, and the increasing spread of the loud minority is able to of far-right political idealogy in America. (A loud minority refers to a small group that frequently and strongly voice their opinions and become the general representation of a large group, even though it is not the majority opinion.) This is combined with the overall lack of education and ignorance regarding the religion of Islam in our education system and in general information, due to Christianity and Catholicism often being the default religion that is commonly the most taught. There is a general lack of understanding when it comes to understanding Muslim culture and Islam as a religion, with the continuous spread of misinformation through biased news, ignorance, and a lack of education. This can be shown in the example of the media. In media, various examples of this is seen with the portrayal of Muslim majority countries being filled with war and in need of saviors, often who are white, as well as the portrayl of Muslims as terrorists and/or all Muslims being Arabic and barbaric, or that Islam is an oppressing religion that they are forced to abide to, and that all of them want to break free. As stated in the Youtube video, “Problematic Anti-Muslim Movie Tropes” by the channel, Muslim, it explains that these potrayls often stems from Orientalism (as defined by the New World Encyclopedia, refers to the depiction of aspects of Eastern/Asian cultures by Western writers, designers, and artists, often with negative connotations and generalizations, causing misunderstanding in their cultural, ethical, and religious beliefs). And in the video, the speaker states, “In post 9/11 era, America found it easy to fall into Islamophobic beliefs because of the way orientalism was already rooted into Western consciousness.” It perpetuates an ongoing cycle of Islamphobia and marginalization that continues the mistreatment of Muslim Americans and Muslims in general, as due to these lack of resources in general education, problematic stereotypes and misinformation is all that many base their opinions and beliefs on.
But this cycle isn’t something new. The cycle of mistreatment and generalization of minorities, as well as the cycle of hate and marginalization following a huge catastrophic event is not a new thing seen in America, or in general. Two examples that personally stick out for me the most in connection to the social impact on a community was seen with the COVID-19 pandemic and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. These two events are the ones I will be focusing on, but are not the only examples of this happening in America’s history. But in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, both of these events lead to the marginalization and mistreatment of Asians and Asian Americans, specifically Japanese and Japanese Americans in Pearl Harbor’s case, following and during these events. All of these examples, in terms of America, lead to the increase in hate and mistreatment of a community, as well as a generalization of an entire subsection as a target and as the subject of blame for an event. Not only that, it leads to long term stereotypes, feelings of mistrust, suspicion, and a lack of respect shown due to these assumptions and harmful, ignorant beliefs that takes a long time to break down and for them to slowly dissipate out of the mainstream eye and for most people to see these beliefs as wrong. And yet, beliefs and hateful actions often still exist within many, just not in the mainstream eye, where they will face backlash for it. In a large majority of examples that we can think of, this cycle only impacts minority communities and groups. This cycle continues and continues, but when the decision to be able to make small changes to slowly move forward and prevent this cycle from happening again and again every time something happens, to prevent hate from piling higher and higher, and to prevent the increasing of consequences that communities have to face by the beliefs that stem from ignorance, we still are seeing decisions that perpetuate the opposite of what needs to be done. An example of this is seen in the mainland U.S with conservative politicians pushing for the banning of teachings of topics like critical race theory, intersectionality, and education on many topics that push the next generation into a pathway of slowly being able to fix our mistakes. What is being pushed is not “for the betterment of our children.” What is being pushed is for the next generation to be pushed into a state of ignorance, so that if events like 9/11 were to happen again, they are able to continue this cycle of blame on minority communities and can push American citizens who don’t have the same political power as the politicians and the loud minority do, to blindly follow the U.S government and their decisions. Not only that, but to push these same citizens to take action into their own hands on a social level, without knowing and thinking of the consequences that come to follow later on when the deserved anger and anguish that stem from these catastrophic events is aimed at communities that they have generalized into the same realm as the ones to blame.
What I wish I was taught about 9/11 wasn’t just horrifying videos of people taking their own lives, jumping out of buildings as a final decision to be able to make a final choice out of desperation in Elementary school and later on. I wish that we not only learned about the lives that were lost and honoring people that worked in the immediate aftermath of this tragic event, but also about the long term social and cultural effect that 9/11 had on Muslim communities and American culture and society as a whole. Maybe then we are able to educate students on these complex topics and be able to foster conversations that provide proper information and show us different perspectives and how events like these affected everybody. And maybe then, with the proper education, can we push to slowly stop this harmful cycle of hate. My message is not to stop honoring the people who worked front line on that day and the days following, but rather to educate people more on the aftermath following these events that isn’t just regarding our federal security and military.