It’s been 10 years since the world was introduced to the term ‘9/11′ but the legacy of the fallen twin towers still lives on. By Fang Shihan
You don’t really give a shit about things when you’re 15.
I know I was having a nap during English class when I first heard about the World Trade Centre attack in New York.
In fact I was probably a little confused because when Ms. C our teacher asked us if we knew what the place was, I immediately thought about cable cars and the yearly family trip to Sentosa.
I really didn’t care – not even when a classmate watched an online video of a plane crashing into one of the twin towers, and not even when another classmate related a probably made-up story of her friend making a phone call to her saying that the plane just flew past her office window.
The O Levels then came and went in 2002 with almost no mention about Osama bin Laden or Islamicism. I probably knew the text of Julius Caesar better than the causes of the 9/11 attack or the implications it had on the global economy.
It was only in 2003 that I starting taking note of the legacy it made in the world. And it all started with a television broadcast of the war in Afghanistan.
After a long hike through Tioman island, a bunch of us JC kids (including pre-NS weapons enthusiasts) decided to sit down for dinner at a restaurant which happened to have a TV set tuned in to the evening news.
I didn’t understand a word of Bahasa, but I did understand the footage. In a dusty city somewhere in the Middle East, U.S. troops were driving though town squares in heavily armored vehicles, flashing their machine guns while civilians were being killed every minute. No war is without collateral. At that time my only point of reference was World War II and we all know WWII, in a nutshell, sucked.
Fast forward to university. After going through various texts and theories of war, international relations and exhaustive arguments with culture relativists, I decided to pick up religious studies as a minor because
1) I didn’t understand why people would pick on a religion that when translated, literally meant ‘peace’
2) why terrorists would terrorise for the promise of 72 virgins
3) why some Muslims were so hard up on a bunch of Danish cartoons when the rest of the world lampoons Christian nutters with little resistance
4) why people would wuss out on talking about the problem of obviously conflicting opinions, choosing instead to say “Oh everyone has a right to an opinion.”
Obviously everyone has a right to be nuts, but there had to be a reason why some opinions are considered more nutty than others.
And that was also when I decided that being in the news industry was pretty cool. Different aces report on the very same issues so differently, with so many consequences.
And we have no way of drawing any proverbial line on the black/white, right/wrong, objective/ subjective. Is Al Jazeera wrong for publishing shit about everyone else in the middle east except its pay masters, the Qatar royalty? Is Fox News being unobjective for slamming the liberals and having a Christian undertone when the liberal outlets have their own slant too?
So a decade down the road since 9/11, here i am at New Nation, where we write about stuff that happens everyday. It’s been a long time since the first image of the twin towers collapsing was etched deep into my memory but in truth, 9/11 has really stuck.
So what if Osama’s dead. Obama’s still getting flak for having a Muslim middle name, people are still making money talking about Islamic security threats (real or imagined) in the region, and Muslims are still being detained in Singapre by Internal Security for being terrorist threats.
The truth is, 9/11 just gave the developed world an excuse to pick on something else after the Cold War. And until we find that something else to demonise, there can be no closure to the event that will shaped the histories of Muslims, Americans, Singaporeans and the like, for better or for worse.