The Society for the
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Event report: Generation 9/11: The New Generation Rises

8 September 2011

For members of the millennial generation, 9/11 was perhaps the single most important political event that occurred during the formative years of their lives. At this event held at the Center for American Progress, several millennial reflect on how the attacks influenced them and the communities of which they have been a part.

Zeenat Rahman, Deputy Director, Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, recounts how struck she was when she saw the hurried efforts that imams from the Muslim communities in America were making to protect the premises of their mosques from anti-Islamic vandalism. This aspect of 9/11 was something that contrasted markedly with the major preoccupation of most Americans which was to find out who perpetrated the terrorist attacks and bring them to justice. Since that time, she has been an active participant in inter-faith initiatives that seek to bring better understanding of different religions, and to minimize the negative repercussions for Islam in particular. She observed, that like herself, many millennials are very interested in social change, and that one of the most promising things in the aftermath of 9/11 is that society and the world has shown remarkable resilience in the face of some serious political and economic challenges. Today, many millennials are leading the world in new entrepreneurial initiatives and there remains much potential for these positive changes to keep going forward.

Aloysius "Ish" Boyle, Captain, USMC, agreed with Zeenat Rahman that resilience of society has been an very important success story subsequently to the attacks. This is especially as, psychologically, 9/11 brought war and threats to security much closer to many people in the country. He recalled how much, as a member of the military, his world had been instantly transformed. Another positive story that Ish mentioned was that many Americans, especially the millennials, have a better grasp of global affairs today, and are interested in how we can get along with other countries better.

Alyssa Rosenberg, Culture Blogger, Think Progress, said that pop culture has given us a mixed but interesting view points on 9/11. Heroism in Marvel comic films has often weaved in themes from terrorism or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and they normally represent attempts to understand how features of these such as religious prejudice, weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), or security technology are changing in our societies. Overall, however, we are now seeing more focus on the issue of the economy.

Adam Serwer, Reporter, Mother Jones, observed that looking back on the reaction to 9/11 it has become clear that it is very difficult to make decisions when you are very afraid, and said that the faulty policy response to the lack of evidence of WMDs. He agreed with Zeenat Rahman’s point about the evidence of increased open attitudes among millennials and their increased tolerance, but suggested that this has not much to do with the fact of 9/11. Looking into the future he said that it will be very important to keep a sound political and historical perspective on the terrorist attacks. For many people in the world (most remarkably in Afghanistan where recent polls have been conducted) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are just another war of political interests, and certainly don’t merit the kind of emergencies that we faced from Nazism or the nuclear threat of the Soviet Union. Adam recommended that in future, America needs to work on decreasing its global military footprint, a point on which the other members of the panel agreed strongly.

Alex Ingrams
SPSSI Policy Coordinator

Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin