Sept. 11, 2001, no doubt, is one of the most tragic and historic days in American history. This day is the most damaging to modern Americans, for sure. Eighteen years after the Twin Towers came down, the Pentagon was attacked and Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, we still mourn the deaths of the nearly three thousand people lost.
The goals of Al-Qaeda, at least by their own admission, were numerous. However, the one cause that they never mentioned but was inferred by all: to divide and fracture America at its core, to sow hate and dissension, to strike fear into the hearts of not only Americans but also the world.
However, it seemed in the beginning, that the goal was in vain. America and the world seemed to unify in eliminating the Al-Qaeda threat, entering two wars in the name of 9/11. It changed the way we live, work and play in the world, with greater security measures, increased technological breakthroughs, and even a military operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, heavily decreasing the popularity and notoriety of the group. It seemed like we had won, vanquished the enemy with the power and unity of the United States was fully on display.
Or had we?
Don’t get me wrong, America did become unified, but, at the same time, many Americans became unified over one thing: a fear that the perpetrators, more specifically, Muslims, would attempt another attack. As such, since 2001, there has been increased Islamophobia, which was even a partial reason for starting the Second Gulf War in 2003 that left America bankrupt. “September 11” and Islamophobia became buzzwords in political speeches and rhetoric to justify actions that would have otherwise been unjustifiable, such as the Patriot Act and illegal, warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Administration.
When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, it made a bad situation even worse. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of President Obama, and I feel that his election represents a great period in American history, but the rhetoric around him and the political climate of the time needs to be understood to realize why his election was so catastrophic.
Throughout his entire campaign, mainly due to his race and his Kenyan heritage, the widespread rumor throughout the Republican Party that Barack Obama was a Muslim played into the already rampant Islamophobia, thus making his election the equivalent of the enemy becoming the most powerful person in the country. This partially created the modern-day nationalist and xenophobic Tea Party movement in the American right-wing.
Granted, there were politicians with level heads who refused to bow down to this paranoia, most notably former Senator John McCain during the 2008 campaign trail. However, this minority would quickly be stomped out with the 2010 midterm election, most of whom were Tea Party candidates.
And then came the election of Donald Trump, one of the men who started the Muslim suspicions against Obama in the first place by questioning his birth certificate. The amount of divisiveness he has spread can not go unsaid. After all, according to Gallup, America has not been this divided at any point in history since the end of the Civil War. However, a significant part of his campaign rhetoric was the incorporation of not only the infamous border wall, but also the “Muslim ban,” which he successfully implemented, forbidding people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, all Muslim-majority countries, from entering the United States. It is important to note, however, that since 9/11 and even during 9/11, none of these countries had civilians who had launched attacks against the United States.
In 18 years, America went from a unified country, relatively free from fear and hatred, to one divided over religious freedoms and fear that Muslims will attack the United States again, even though they didn’t truly attack America in the first place. We are now so divided, our politics so deluded that, and I can’t believe I’m saying this: even in death, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda got exactly what they wanted when 9/11 happened. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.
So, what can be done? It’s simple. We need to stop fighting internally and start focusing on who we are. It’s not about being an American, Iranian, Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Catholic, whatever you may be. It’s about the fact that, in this country, we are all human, all born free and equal, regardless of the color of our skin, our education, our gender, our sexuality or anything you can think of. We are all born with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In the end, we are all human. So let’s start treating each other that way, shall we? Only then will we truly win.