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20 Years On: A Nation United to a Nation Derided

As Americans are wont to do each year on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, we reflect on the details of that day and the stories of heroism that emerged. Americans recall the devastation collectively experienced, the uncommon valor of common men and women, and the patriotic fervor that united a nation against a shared enemy. 

In the months that followed 9/11, we were a nation that proudly displayed the American flag on front porches and the bumpers of cars. Today, professional athletes and Olympic representatives kneel or turn their backs when the National Anthem is played. 

Country singers wrote and recorded a slew of patriotic songs in the months after September 11, pitching such lines as “we’ll put a boot in you’re a**, it’s the American way.” Nearly 20 years to the day, America’s Commander-in-Chief sealed a deal with the Taliban, a group with known ties to the terrorist organization that planned and perpetrated the attacks. 

We’ve gone from a nation that celebrated its exceptionalism and sought to share its democratic values to a nation full of classrooms perpetuating the idea that America is a racist nation with an irredeemable past. Some college classrooms have even gone so far as to inculcate American students with the idea that America’s imperialist propensities and colonization of the Middle East is to blame for the terrorist attacks. 

The events of September 11, 2001, and the many stories of bravery that emerged from the actions of law enforcement and first responders on that day brought about a common respect for police officers and firefighters. Americans lauded civil defenders as heroes. Now in 2021, “Defund the Police” rings as a battle cry across many U.S. cities and among Left-leaning politicians who demonize law enforcement officers. Ambush-style attacks on police officers were up 50% from last year by May 31, and anti-police sentiment is at an all-time high. 

It’s not that we ought to pine after a nation that worships itself and fails to recognize its faults, but the pivot towards derision of traditional American values and exceptionalism produces a nation that is unable to project power and strength. Even despite her many faults, America is STILL a great nation. Just ask those daily pouring across the southern border or those who rushed U.S. military planes departing Afghanistan just weeks ago. Few can forget the heart-wrenching images of Afghan citizens falling from planes as they took off. Twenty years later, we are a country less united and more divided.

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Aly is a military spouse and mom to two. She has a special interest in international security and foreign affairs, having lived overseas, worked with Sister Cities International and served as a commissioning editor for an international relations website. Aly holds a Masters in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern University and currently resides in Tennessee.
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