President Barack Obama spoke during the American Legion National Convention in Minneapolis recently, calling for help for the 9/11 generation: The five million plus soldiers who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East since the 2001 attacks.
But I believe that the 9/11 generation extends to you and I as well. After all, we’ve grown up in a war culture that has changed the way we fly, the way we perceive others and the way we perceive our government.
Within the first several weeks after 9/11, news stations and papers displayed images of the hijackers and these faces were seared in our retinas and remained with us, and for some, still do to this day.
I remember one of my close friends in high school on the brink of tears one day because of a racial slur said to her father in the grocery store shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Her father and mother immigrated from Iran to create a better life and raise their children. Because of the over-saturation of hijacker images from television news, magazines and papers, her parents were being judged based on how they look.
The public immediately began to accuse and grow suspicious of anyone who looked Middle Eastern. Nobody cared if they were citizens of the U.S. or what country they were from. These people were stopped at airport security and harassed, and we allowed it. We allowed it because the media and our government fed us euphemisms like heightened security and using our feelings of victimization to racially profile anyone and everyone who fell under the category Middle Eastern.
I remember the sudden surge of patriotism that swept my neighborhood. Flags of red, white and blue decorated the outsides of homes and the windows of apartment buildings. Since when does flying a flag in front of your house make you a patriot? And why only now and not before? Perhaps it was only out of fear and feeling vulnerable that people decided to band together and show pride for their country. At least, that’s what it looked like to me.
People were coming together under a shared sense of nation, but this nationalism is what perpetuated the racial, ethnic and religious injustice that stemmed from this pride.
The past 10 years have changed the social climate of our country dramatically. Most of us have grown up in this post-9/11 era and this is all that we know. But there are a few of us who can remember how things were, and realize how different things are now. We are just as much a part of the 9/11 generation as our troops are.