Kernel Opinion SIG

Sept. 11, 2001. A date that lives in infamy.

Almost every American who was alive at that time knows where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of terrorists hijacking airplanes and crashing them into the World Trade Center, causing thousands of deaths. Seventeen years later many are asking the question, Are we now desensitized to that date and the tragic events surrounding it? 

Dictionary.com defines “desensitize” to mean “to cause someone to experience something, usually an emotion or a pain, less strongly than before.” Obviously, when we hear about 9/11 today, we are not as shocked or scared as we were in September of 2001. When we see images and videos of the horrific tragedy today, almost everyone produces some emotional response. Events for fundraising for 9/11 victims or commemorating the heroes of that day produce no backlash and are one of the few things that unite people on both sides of the political spectrum.

I believe what we have really been desensitized to are the freedoms that we lost since then, freedoms our own government took away from us due to the passing of the Patriot Act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website explains how while the act was passed for “national security reasons,” it actually “turns regular citizens into suspects.” The Patriot Act allows the government to legally tap into anyone’s phone records, bank information, email, and even track people. The FBI does not even need a judge’s approval to issue a “National Security Letter” (NSLs) to access the aforementioned information. Again from the ACLU website, between 2003 and 2006, 192,499 NSLs were issued... and only one terrorist was convicted from that. If you do the math, that is a .000005 percent success rate. Yet, with such a low success rate, there is not nearly

enough outrage to the lack of privacy all of us are subjected to.

It is the aftermath of 9/11 that we are truly desensitized to. We invaded a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, a country which none of the hijackers on 9/11 were even from. We toppled a dictator which led to a political vacuum and the creation of ISIS. Worst of all, 500,000 Iraqis have died from “war-related” causes since the invasion in 2003, according to one analysis. 

What happened on 9/11 was absolutely horrible and is a dark day for America. But everyone acknowledges that; there is no debate on that issue. However, there are still people in favor of or ignorant of the Patriot Act and invasion of Iraq. And that is how 9/11 desensitized us, by putting our own tragedy on a pedestal, in order to cause even more.