Most Americans see the changes resulting from the 9/11 attacks as changes in the physical way they lead their lives — long lines at the airport; changes in the way they pack for trips; and those ubiquitous little tags the Transportation Security Administration puts in your bag after they’ve rummaged through your belongings.
The hole in the ground that was the World Trade Center and the damaged Pentagon are gone now, replaced by monuments to bravery. Then we had the courage to take on danger. Now, we hear arguments about budget cuts and see the futility of politics in trying to understand wars we fight to assuage the fears that we may be attacked again.
What bothers me most about America’s reaction to 9/11 are the fears is has unleashed — the fear of the unknown, of peoples who should be our friends, and even ourselves. Federal employees are typically treated as enemies by politicians and the media.
I grew up in Los Angeles, during the period when Watts was burning and an old hatred rode the land. I had hoped that ghettos, both physical and of the mind, were a thing of the past. But I am not sure we have succeeded. We make much of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, but we are often still slaves to the horrors that we perpetuate when we make enemies of those who would be our friends. My hope is that can change.
Drake works in the Regional Liaison Office of the Chief Operating Officer, National Archives and Records Administration, San Bruno, Calif.