I don’t write much about life in the U.S. after the terrorist attacks on 11 Sept. 2001. It has shaped my life and understanding of the world and my home country in many ways that I recognize and am blind to. I was 18 at the time, off at university, living in the dorms. I wasn’t that far from home, and California is a long way from New York and Washington, D.C.
What I knew at the time, better than anything else, was that my world had shifted to something other. The last (practically) ten years have revealed what shifted, and how those cracks continue to shift, in the world. And there’s much in this new world that I’m not excited about, and a some that terrifies me.
And tonight, I watched another world-changing presidential address to the nation as President Obama announced officially that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.
But tonight’s shift constitutes something wholly other. I know that my thoughts will not resolve quickly on this. It’s a moment in history. I’m watching the news and keeping my eyes on Twitter, sharing this moment with the rest of the country that’s still awake. There are college kids partying on the streets in front of the White House, and 30somethings coming to grips with the demise of the standard reason for all of the infringements on our rights.
Rachel Maddow reported that being in the crowd in front of the White House felt like the U.S. had done something. Brian Williams likened the video images from the major cities to the images from the end of WWII. And author Matt Wallace tweeted that today wasn’t great or sad but necessary.
The television is attempting to make sense of and determine what this historical moment means for the U.S. now. Twitter is sharing the thoughts of the TV. The general consensus settles to uncertainty.
My lack of prescience places me in the camp of uncertainty. I hope that the removal of this symbol of our current threat will add to the talk-down from the constant state of terror we have lived under, and I hope that we as a country will regain some of our calm.
The Obama administration had already begun raising a voice for reasonableness (in not nearly large enough ways), and vocal social voices (like Jon Stewart and Anderson Cooper in some instances) started much earlier. If I were still that college Freshman, I might believe that the world would revert back to the former way it functioned.
But I’ve paid attention to the historical moments, and I know that the change will always remain. I hope that this new shift will create adjustments that assist in the mitigation of the dire (and often destructive) fluctuations. If this act results in nothing else, I hope that it eases the constant fear people my age and younger have lived with. Perhaps with a little less fear, we will regain our ability to actually listen to one another and enter into dialogue. If we lose our fear, perhaps we will see and acknowledge the humanity of those we disagree with and learn to understand their position.
Optimism may lead to the path of dashed hopes, but tonight, in acknowledgment of the sacrifices today, I will hope that tomorrow will retain the relief of this moment and lead to a world with a little less fear and a little more conversation.