Barron: The “9/11 Generation” May Be The Greatest Generation

010915-N-3995K-024%0ANew+York%2C+N.Y.+%28Sept.+15%2C+2001%29+--+The+American+flag+is+a+prominent+icon+in+the+heart+of+what+was+once+the+World+Trade+Center+in+New+York+City%2C+Sept.+15%2C+2001.++U.S.+Navy+photo+by+Journalist+1st+Class+Preston+Keres.+%28RELEASED%29

Preston Keres

010915-N-3995K-024 New York, N.Y. (Sept. 15, 2001) — The American flag is a prominent icon in the heart of what was once the World Trade Center in New York City, Sept. 15, 2001. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres. (RELEASED)

By Morgan Barron, Opinion Writer

I cannot remember the time that existed before September 11th was marked by the acts of terror committed on that day. I am not sure who explained the attacks to me. The knowledge of what happened that morning seems almost innate. Four planes were hijacked. Two went through the Twin Towers in New York City, one crashed into the western side of the Pentagon and another went down somewhere in Pennsylvania due to the bravery of the passengers aboard. I understand that 9/11 was tragic, but my understanding is abstract as the actual event is far removed from my personal experience. I am part of the generation that grew up without the towers’ shadows, a generation raised during a perpetual war and threats of terrorism. Now, this generation is becoming enfranchised.  

Many researchers believed the upcoming “9/11 generation” would be the most bigoted generation of Americans based on the many hate crimes perpetrated against Muslim Americans soon after the infamous attacks. However, Pew research has shown most American youth born near or after 2001 do not support the majority of post-9/11 legislation and action. While 83 percent of American youth say terrorism is their biggest concern for the future, their reaction to fear is dissimilar to their parents’.

In 2015, the USA Patriot Act, originally passed 45 days after September 11th, 2001, was renewed until 2019 with a slight alteration, which decreased the NSA’s ability to surveil American citizens. However, 50 percent of voters ages 18 to 34 did not support renewal. Pew experts believe younger Americans overwhelmingly do not support this legislation as they value their personal internet privacy and believe there are more effective ways to prevent terrorism. The Patriot Act has only led to one terror related conviction. I do not believe the Patriot Act will be renewed again, as over 20,000 young Americans have and will become voters between 2015 and 2019. As these youth are newly empowered to elect officials, their opinions will have increased value to their political representatives.

Donald Trump, during the election campaign, told Americans we did not win enough anymore; he claimed to hold the key to end ISIS and other conflicts in the Middle East. While most young Americans support the eradication of ISIS, Hillary Clinton won the 18 to 24 year old demographic by 18 points. I believe many of Donald Trump’s statements alienated younger voters, but especially his continued talk of a ‘Muslim Ban’ as Pew research shows most young Americans value diversity and do not believe the United States is doing enough for refugees. As young Americans continue to become voters, I believe we can expect a decrease in public officials who utilize racial tension and fear to unite their supporters.

On September 12th, 2001, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Whom do we declare war on today? A hundred terrorists, in a dozen different cities? Our enemy fades in the shadows, out of reach of justice or revenge. And that leaves us with our fears — that it could happen again…”  For the past 16 years, the threat of another terrorist attack has been part of the American psyche, and the justification of much of the American post-9/11 reaction. However, many young Americans are no longer willing to accept the constant threat of terrorism to rationalize discrimination or violation of their civil rights.

[email protected]