This article appeared on PostMedia websites in the lead-up coverage of September 11th, Ten Years Later.
A new generation is dawning, and they have no direct grasp of what it means to have lived through September 11, 2001. My experience may have been first hand through live TV, but like most Canadians, my life was never in danger on that day even though our country’s course was about to be changed. Our leaders swore our way of life would be protected, but instead it’s been changed by those terrorists who succeeded in many of their objectives. That morning it felt as if the world was changing as I watched with horror as smoke filled video rolled on the 24 hour TV news channel, and the second plane slammed into the second World Trade Center tower. Then in the coming days, weeks, and years, our world did change as laws were passed, a decade (unending?) long war began, and western society began to act more and more afraid of terrorist threats above any other legitimate concern. New generations will be born into this new “post 9/11 world”, not knowing the care free days when people dreamed of having their own flying cars. Do you remember when the biggest concerns at an airport were the cost of the ticket, lost bags, and air sickness instead of the body scanner/gropers, water bottles, shoes, and hijacking threat?
As we’ve refocused our attention away from peacekeeping to the so called “War on Terror”, we’ve ceded victory to those who sought to strip Westerners of their civil liberties and care free days. Terrorists act to initiate political change, and now we live in a “post 9/11 world” instead of just live. We define eras by major events, sometimes violent attacks, and also the end of oppression. The fall of the Berlin Wall is certainly a landmark used to define the end of the Cold War, but what will signal the end of the War on Terror? The violent death of Bin Laden could certainly be seen as such a turning point, if we wrap up our occupation of Afghanistan and the Americans leave Iraq. I think that’s why many people crassly celebrated the death of Bin Laden this year in America’s streets; it was a major event signaling a possible turn for the better in Western nations. We can scarcely afford another decade of fighting.
A standard line for letting security paranoia shape our country is the George Bush excuse, “They hate our freedoms“. Ignorance shapes us too; many Americans still incorrectly blame Canada for giving the hijackers access to our shared continent. Rather than truly preserving our legendary and historical freedom to easily cross from Canada into the USA and back, we’ve failed. The terrorists shouldn’t hate us as much now, because we’ve given up many freedoms due to their calculated attacks, despite our hollow insistence that we’re not giving in. This bothers me, and it should bother you too. It bothers us that thousands died a decade ago in a terrible surprise attack on civilians.
It is also our collective concern that the world known to the departed victims of those attacks is gone. It’s been replaced with security certificates, mandatory passports, NEXUS cards, a decade of Canada being at war, and mass arrests of people who publicly protest these changes. The very same politicians who promised to uphold our rights, freedoms, and preserve the world our honoured dead left too soon, have failed to deliver. We’ve failed to hold them accountable. It’s well past time we do a better job of honouring the pre-9/11 world we admired so much.