Sunday, June 10, 2012

9/11 Effects on America Essay

Essay on How 9/11 Changed America

Americans have seen a lot of changes occur in the country they call home in the past decade. A major turning point in the country’s recent history was the unfortunate events that occurred in New York and Washington on September 11th, 2001. These terrorist attacks would spark many changes in the lives and morale of the citizens of the United States of America. In this paper we will examine how the attacks contributed to different factors, such as the new terror alert systems, the utilization of the U.S customs service and security agencies such the Federal Marshalls Service, heightened airport security and the Patriot Act. Another objective is to determine how these factors relate to American patriotism, military enlistment and the overall culture and state of the American people.


A recent study observed that immediately following the attacks of 9/11, a large percentage of American citizens found it necessary to display the American flag on their cars and homes (Skitka 1995). This sparked a debate about whether Americans were expressing patriotism or nationalism, and whether the two go hand in hand or can be separated. It can be easily argued that nationalism is exactly the reason for such terrorist attacks. It is considered important to differentiate between these two concepts as patriotism is a more critical appreciation of one’s country, whereas nationalism is supported by the thought that since it is one’s own nation, it does not matter if the country is right or wrong (Skitka 1997).

Heightened Airport Security
After the attacks, the aviation industry in the United States experienced a dramatic increase in expenditure and activity for security purposes. The Transportation Security Administration was instated and costs associated with enhanced security measures totaled over $9 billion USD. Passengers were now required to check their jackets, computers and shoes and commercial pilots were required to be trained and armed with weaponry. The evaluation of the federalized security system led to a move from federalized security to private in order to combat inefficient screening and inadequate detection procedures (Keane).

Immigration and Customs Enforcement
American airports and airlines have seen the leverage of many defense and security agencies affect the production process through regulatory changes over the course of the last decade (Grand 26-39). These changes have been enforced to create a safer environment in the country’s air transport system. The ICE team consists of the U.S Customs Service, the Federal Air Marshals Service, the Federal Protective Service, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In order to control terrorist activities, airlines are mandated to have air marshals present amongst many commercial flights in order to prevent any situation that would endanger the safety of passengers. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency also requires immigrants to get photographed and fingerprinted before entering the country and regulates special programs for students.

The Terror Alert System
The terror alert system is a system that was created to inform the public using colors to indicate levels of terror-associated risk. The majority of the time, the color/ level jumped back and forth in between yellow (elevated) and orange (high)(Keane). This made certain that the public felt that the government was aware of the terrorist activity going on and ensuring the safety of the people. The system, however, provided little important information and was heavily criticized for unnecessarily instilling fear into the public.

The Patriot Act
The USA Patriot Act was instated just weeks after the attacks that occurred on Sept. 11. Its main purpose was to extend the power of regular police officers in order to strengthen the security of the American people. These changes were suppose to make it easier to obtain information in terror-stricken circumstances, to share information from intelligence and criminal investigations, and make it easier to survey terror suspects along with increasing other rights and privileges (Kean).

The predicted benefit of the Patriot act, however, was coupled with criticism from civil liberties groups. These groups claimed that the fear instilled in the people due to these attacks would propel people into a willingness to give up many rights. The argument concluded that this could lead to nationalism that could contradict the concepts associated with liberal democratic environment that is the backbone of American society (Skitka 2008). Studies have shown this to be a valid theory as conformity and concern for criticism from others for not being patriotic was also a factor in the aforementioned peoples’ display of flags and patriotism.

The level of trust in government rose dramatically in this period of time. The shifting focus from international affairs to domestic issues such as homeland security was joined with a doubling of the population who said they trust the government to do what was right most of the time (Chanley 469). One can conclude from this that although people became closer and more supportive of each other after the terrorist attacks, there was still a divide amongst the masses of patriotic people and the few who wished to critically analyze not just the attacks but also the procedures that followed. This mass appeal to homeland security also indicated a public acceptance to increase on military spending, which would lead to an increase in military enlistment (Chanley 469).

National Identity
There has been a recent rise in the the growth of studying American identity. This can be attributed to the dramatic rise in the multiethnic population (SchildKraut, 513). When the American people experience a threat to their safety in their own land, they are often left examining their own national identity. The ideas involved concerning one’s own national identity and the general public policy preferences are closely related, especially when there is a threat to safety (SchildKraut, 512). The divide between the masses’ opinion and elite rhetoric lay exactly therein the concern of national identity. The recent efforts of multiethnic understanding of American identity have been hurt due to ethnic tensions during peacetime. There is a logic that says that the terrorists’ main objective was to create a divide among the citizens of the USA. This is why it is important to understand and combat the reasons for the resurfacing of old stereotypes. Therefore, it is vital to identify how the white American population views their non-white counterpart and how the non-white citizens view their relationship to the country (Schildkraut, 531). This paper supports the view that one’s national identity is a large indicator of political view and preference.

The increase in public trust in government decisions can be expressed as determinant of two factors. It is predicated by national identity and encouraged by public policy. Public policy has attempted to create a safety net for the American people to feel that they are out of harm's way, and have done a great job in doing so, albeit utilizing a large proportion of resources. However, the psychological consequences have taken their toll on the country as well. Confusion in one’s national identity can cause divide amongst civilizations. For instance, the confusion of the point of views of patriotism versus nationalism, especially in a multiethnic society, can create misunderstandings. This is truly visible in the times of fear and helplessness. As America is relatively a safe country to live in, the attacks of September 11th, 2001 created a lot of change in the views and actions of the general population and public officials.
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