Fri September 9, 2011

9/11: Rethinking Fear in the Decade After

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. As a nation takes time to pause and reflect – KUNC commentator Pius Kamau says we as a country should also refocus our thinking on the war on terrorism to include more homegrown threats – that have had just as deadly consequences.

Like many Americans and possibly much of the world, I remember the morning of September 11th when the first plane plowed into the Twin Towers. That the Second Tower might too be brought down was unthinkable. The images of that sad day are seared into our memories; it’s doubtful that time will ever lessen the intensity of our feelings towards America’s attackers. Our perceptions of certain people will forever be colored by that morning’s images of the collapsing Towers and the burning Pentagon.

Ten years later the aftermath of 9/11’s terror continues to reverberate across the world. However despite our repulsion towards al Qaeda, I think we should now talk about our fear. A certain amount of caution and fear are healthy, but to carry it to the degree and lengths we have in America is obsessive and pernicious. I have watched folks fan the flames of fear and use our profound paranoia as a sling to effect aggressive and unwarranted military adventures.

There’s no question that we had to show Al Qaeda that we could muster a muscular response to their aggression and for attacking us. Unwisely though we let Osama Bin Laden make us unsheathe America’s military might. Unfortunately great power is a double-edged sword; it must be used precisely and with great care or it will harm he who wields it. We deflected our vision from a great deal that was just as lethal and urgent at home and abroad, which was in fact Bin Laden’s objective. To force America to wander off into the wilderness of misused force, power and domestic impoverishment.

Ten years after 9/11 we must begin disentangling ourselves from al Qaeda’s snake coils of fear. Let’s defend our homeland and friends, but stop spending too much of our treasure and energy on these hollow men. Let’s also be mindful that terrorism comes in all forms and colors - both foreign and domestic. Only last month a Norwegian gunman who had never come under any official scrutiny killed 80 children. Our own homegrown terrorists come in all shades, shapes, beliefs and objectives. From Enron like financial terrorists to blue eyed, Aryan Neo Nazis and the likes of Timothy McVeigh. His bloodthirsty sense of revenge was frightening and incomprehensible to me. It’s disturbing that these inner city thugs who kill large numbers of children in cold blood don't seem to merit as intense a limelight as Bin Laden. The body count of domestic terrorist acts is staggering and cries for more attention.

Let’s also remember those across the world terrorized by disease, hunger and rapists with guns.  The women of East Congo have known more terror than any average American woman.  In the decade we have been fighting Al Qaeda; five million Congolese have died without the blitzkrieg lights reserved for Bin Laden’s acts. So, let’s use this moment to remember all of these innocents, realizing that their lives are no less valuable than those who died on September 11th.

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