The years before 9/11 were most of my early childhood. Like most elementary school students I was concerned with things fairly trivial in nature and largely apathetic to the world around me. But ever since, I haven’t been able to ignore the police state that erected itself after that day. It was intended to protect the people who supported it, but it’s become clear that it has consequences for everyone. The current state of liberty is grim in New York, especially with a population more pre-occupied with their safety rather than their freedom, but it is even worse for the poor and weakest among us.
The morning began like every other, but eventually digressed into an odd set of events which I’ll never forget, even in my old age. We were walking towards lunch when I first looked at the televisions that day. There was a small television located in the janitor’s office, that they were all glued to, watching. I couldn’t make out what was happening, none of the children knew anything specific, nothing more than what the principal told us—“your parents might be late from work if they do so in New York City.”
Once home, things became clear as I had access to a television. However, I became largely disinterested in the media hysteria that was evolving around the event. Repeatedly seeing the planes crash into the towers became not so much disgusting as it just felt redundant and unnecessary. The news stations largely seized the opportunity to prey on everyone’s fears, speaking of a large-scale war against Afghanistan. The news became less about reporting the event, and more about hypothetical situations and contemplation on the event.
The subway stations filled with militarized police officers, covered in Kevlar and donning automatic rifles. The NYPD and government at large became more aggressive in all their efforts, constantly touting their future accomplishments in stopping future terrorists attacks, and applauded for such, despite the illegal methods employed to do so. The Patriot Act loosened many of the constitutional requirements required for search and seizures, and the state of New York has taken great advantage of it.
The right to privacy largely is illusory unless you’re part of a certain socio-economic class in New York, and even then can be revoked at any instance. Illegal use of search dogs has become commonplace to the point where most citizens are more amused by the dog itself rather than the illegality of the matter. The NYPD has become increasingly militarized in both their appearance and method of “protecting” the people. Yet it’s said constantly that we’re more safe today because of these measures.
Before the terrorists it was the Soviets, and countless military conflicts were endorsed and engaged to stop them. They were purportedly evil, disagreed with our lifestyle, and similarly to the pro-Al Qaeda leaders in the Middle East, committed human rights abuses on their people. We constantly overthrew or endorsed the ousting of these individuals, and in the case of the Mujahedeen, aided and abetted them against the Soviets. The Mujahedeen were led by Osama bin Laden, who would eventually use these same weapons against the United States in the decades following.
History often repeats itself, alluding to the fact that human nature does not change despite how many centuries pass. Until people are willing to realize the consequence of their actions, accept the fate that there are simply evil people in the world, and not tolerate being harassed by the police officers they employ, there is nothing short of a militarized police state waiting for everyone.
The morning after 9/11 we were confronted with school psychologists, long lectures, and, most disappointing, a very poor explanation of the events. “They hate us because we’re free,” they said constantly. Every day ended with patriotic music, and anyone who was seen not standing for the pledge of allegiance was threatened with detention.
Becoming more ignorant of the world was one end of the spectrum of reactions. Someone Pakistani was called a “terrorist” by my peers, leading many of the Sikh children to be wrongly discriminated against. Of course, children are expected to be children, and these things were not endorsed by the school administration. Despite the difference in age, the discrimination and manner in which it was carried were both the same, which speaks to the power of the state and propaganda.
The great threat to the future of liberty of New York, or my generation, is that there is little incentive to care for most people, especially the wealthier citizens. The general consensus is that it’s a minor inconvenience to many people to be searched, not be able to board an airplane without being scanned, and to have a military and government who endorses the policing of the world at large to protect its citizens while murdering countless people around the world.
Like the children in my school who became hateful and scared, this diminished freedom has been compounded by racist and prejudiced ideas spread over their airwaves and through the presses. The only “get out of jail free” card in the future will be the size of your checking account and buying the status of someone who isn’t a suspected terrorist. Sadly, most people can’t afford that.
If you’d like to speak with or book Taweh or any of our other Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.