Understanding the relationship between American society and the past is critical in shaping a collective consciousness, which is especially important in helping guide governmental policies. The September 11 attacks, one of the many events that shaped American society, set into motion actions that would change the course of life in America. Even to this day, the date itself has a negative connotation in the US and its impact has extended far beyond the bounds of politics.
The magnitude of 9/11’s impact has been discussed for years, nevertheless, there is substantial evidence of it leaving a lasting impression on American politics and economics. For instance, an international military campaign, known as the War on Terror was initiated by President George W. Bush after 9/11. The War of Terror included invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq and covert operations in Yemen, with the objective being to completely eliminate international terrorism.
Many critics argue that the War of Terror was ineffective, with thousands of American troops dying and terrorists diffusing to other locations, making them harder to contain. These critics also argue that the amount of money invested in the War of Terror subverts its accomplishments. According to the Congressional Research Service, “as of December 2014, the total cost for the war on terror totaled $1.6 trillion”. The major expenditures on the War of Terror and overall increase in defense spending has had a harmful impact on the US government debt today. In fact, without the War on Terror, “the 2018 debt would be $19 trillion or less”.
Furthermore, after 9/11, the US government created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These were designed to prevent similar terrorist attacks from occurring and are still present today, illustrating 9/11’s impact on domestic security policy for the US.
Although these two agencies have been practical, they have served to worsen the US debt. In fact, “with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security came an avalanche of federal funding… a pair of economists estimated that the creation of Homeland Security cost the U.S. $589 billion from 2001-2011”.
Other security departments contribute to worsening the debt as well, with “the budgets of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and Border Patrol… all more than [doubling] since 2001”. A high national debt puts America’s economic situation at risk by creating less flexibility during a major financial crisis and even harms American citizens.
In fact, “based on CBO projections from last year, growing debt would reduce the income of a 4-person family, on average, by $16,000 in 30 years”. A high national debt exacerbates the wealth inequality situation in the US, hurting millions of Americans today. 9/11 has evidently had a major fiscal impact on America today, however, it has done more harm than good.
In addition to playing a significant role in exacerbating America’s debt crisis, 9/11 has also had a major influence on bigotry and racial prejudice today. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, since 9/11, “people who are or appear to be Muslim or from the Middle East have been subjected to race-based traffic stops and arbitrary detention at airports. Federal officials have told Muslim women to remove their hijabs when flying, and Muslim families are routinely detained, questioned, and intrusively searched, resulting in anxiety and humiliation”.
A large part of this prejudicial treatment of those who are or appear to be from the Middle East stem from the September 11 attacks because the terrorists behind them were of a Middle Eastern descent. Americans have become much more suspicious and distrustful of foreigners, and this increase in xenophobia still persists today. According to the FBI, “the rate of anti-Muslim hate crimes… is about five times higher today (about 100-150 annually) than before 2001”.
All of this makes it harder for U.S. Middle Eastern residents to assimilate into American society and “half of U.S. Muslims say they find it more difficult to live in this country since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks”. Although segregation and slavery have been abolished, the September 11 attacks influenced the resurgence and intensification of racism and bigotry, exemplifying 9/11’s impact on discriminatory attitudes in the status quo.
The implications are clear: the September 11 attacks have had a major influence on how America has developed, both culturally and politically. The effects of 9/11 have extended beyond the range of politics into American culture and society today, creating a heightened sense of fear among citizens all across America.
This paranoia is mainly based upon the fear of foreign invasion and is justifiable, however, some Americans have taken their wariness to extreme lengths, resulting in blatant xenophobia. This, in turn, facilitates a much more divisive America, ultimately doing more harm than good.
The fateful day of September 11th produced a galvanizing effect on America, and it has taught citizens that its pain remains as evocative today as it was 17 years ago. It is of utmost importance that this pain unites America together to strengthen national resilience and dedication to this country.
Photo: Rebecca Wilson/Flickr