On the Eighteenth Anniversary of the deadliest and most notorious terrorist attack on United States soil, a post is the least I can do. September 11, 2001 will forever be etched in history as one of the most tragic days in United States history in general, and for Arab Americans in particular.
We all know what happened on the awful day nineteen Arab terrorists attacked our country. I was living in Washington D.C. at the time and had family and friends in New York City, so the attack hit home, at least psychologically. In fact, I started to stay completely silent about my Arab roots after the attack and, in a few instances, lied and said I was Italian. It just made things easier.
I haven’t confirmed this with other Arab Americans, but I think they’d agree they always felt some personal shame about having Arab roots on every September 11th after 9/11/01. Of course, none of us was involved in the attacks, and all of us were attacked as Americans first no matter our roots. But, there’s still that twinge of pain I feel every September 11th where 99% of me feels connected to the pain and 1% just keeps saying sorry for something I had nothing to do with.
As crazy as the attack I’ve created in The Raffle Novel is, had the events of 9/11 not occurred, most people would simply laugh off the terrorist strike on Los Angeles I conjured up. But the sheer craziness of 9/11 makes anything possible, which is another reason why we must take potential strikes on our country seriously, though we must still balance those threats against our fundamental constitutional rights and identity.
When I published Part 1 of The Raffle in early 2016, my theory was it would take another shocking and more devastating attack on our country for limits on immigration/birthrights, freedoms and other indications of a fascist-like regime. But I was wrong.
Events like 9/11 and “foreign” terrorist strikes (while rarer than the 40,000 Americans that periah annually from car accidents) provide fuel to the xenophobic and racist fires perpetually burning in the United States today. And in the age of free access to any information we choose to consume and support our beliefs (including going old school by using the Bible), the danger to our democracy compounds. As recently discussed by the well known political scientist Shawn Rosenberg, “When people are left to make political decisions on their own they drift toward the simple solutions right-wing populists worldwide offer: a deadly mix of xenophobia, racism and authoritarianism.”
In the end, from the bottom of my soul, I pray we never become The New United States in The Raffle Novel. The problem is, no matter how hard I pray, the seeds of transformation have been planted and they’re sprouting. And so, I will continue to document them with hopes that my observations may hamper our devolution.