Tag Archive | "9/11"

9/11 freaked me out

9/11 freaked me out

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But I never really comprehended the full impact of it. Until a few days ago.

By Belmont Lay

Just last week, when the New Nation editors had to sit down and talk about doing a a little tribute piece about where we were and what we were experiencing when 9/11 occurred 10 years ago, it didn’t take a lot out of me to go back in time in my mind to dig up the details.

And this very fact about how much I can still recall surprised me.

I think it says a lot that I can still remember that Sept. 11, 2001 fell on a Tuesday – without having to delve too deeply into my memory.

I was 17, pimply and awkward and I was in the first year of junior college. It was September, which meant I was trying to wrap my head around my economics homework.

News of 9/11 came to me close to midnight when I was discharging my nightly obligation of surfing free-to-air channels while homeworking (broadband Internet then, I must add, was a wet dream that was not fulfilled yet).

Footage on Channel News Asia that night was strangely transfixed on a very tall building in New York, as television viewers were informed that there had been an explosion of sorts.

I knew right then something was up.

Or rather, with my poorly developed instincts and a complete inability to grasp the significance of what was unfolding before me then, I, in fact, failed to guess that some things were soon going to come crashing down.

The following day in class, blurry-eyed and a little disturbed having stayed up until 3 a.m. and still not understanding what exactly happened, our Economics tutor was business-as-usual.

No talking about what happened. No point harping over fallen buildings. We have a year-end exam coming up, remember? Let’s dive in, and draw a curve showing how interest rates affects money supply.

That really annoyed me on two fronts:

1) I know my cat didn’t get killed tragically or my parents weren’t getting a divorce, but wouldn’t two buildings billowing with smoke bright and early one morning as seen on TV mean something traumatic happened and my educator was not going to put things in perspective for me?

2) We weren’t about to get some time off from class. To talk about important things, I presume, such as the state of the world for example, because interest rates and money supply are by far more salient? Ironic, no?

Fast forward to the 10th anniversary Sept. 11 weekend yesterday.

I flipped open our friendly broadsheet, The Straits Times on Saturday and read the commentary by everyone’s favourite public intellectual, Kishore Mahbubani.

Kishore said that the US failed to seize the moment to unite humanity. And then he went on about China and plugged his own books.

His article made my stomach turn.

And then I scanned The Sunday Times and pored through Janadas Devan’s missive.

Janadas shared Kishore’s chastising tone, claiming the US wasted the chance to transform the world because the world was emotionally in tune with America when she was attacked exactly 10 years ago but now the feeling has slipped due to a bunch of missteps.

What incessant rubbish, I thought.

After reading both articles, I am made more annoyed than I was 10 years ago. And I’m getting even more riled because neither wordsmith was putting the 9/11 issue in perspective.

In fact, both supposedly “fair-minded” opinions (do consider the quotation marks around fair-minded as optional) are as flippant as my Economic tutor’s reaction and countenance on Sept. 12.

Here’s why: I find it utterly despicable and odious that so-called public intellectuals and opinion leaders should turn the tables on America and accuse it of having made a hash out of the only chance she had to unite the world – after it suffered the worst attack on its domestic soil where mad terrorists targeted civilians to leverage maximum impact from their atrocities.

Because what you need to know about the significance of Sept. 11 and the perpetrators of such a vulgar and grotesque act of obliteration that disregarded any form of civility or of our coming-of-age modernity is this:

– The perpetrators were not only hijackers of commercial airlines. They were also hijackers of religion, self-appointed death squads whose sole allegiance is (or rather, was) to their leader Osama bin Laden.

– They viciously hate Jews, Christians and Shia Muslims, or in fact, any unbelievers in general.

– What they want to promote is not terrorism. They are not even interested in promoting the cause of the marginalised in their community.

– They are not even keen about speaking out against oppressive US foreign policy.

– They were and still are trying to explicitly relay the message to the world that there is only one rule, which is by a despotic empire, of which Al-Qaeda’s sole purpose is to create a new, world wide Islamic caliphate, with a complete break from all foreign influences in Muslim countries.

So let me beg you, dear reader, to consider applying Occam’s Razor: How hard is it to simply see the religiously fanatical mad men for who they truly are?

How difficult it is to see that there are people who are self-conceited and vicious enough to take it upon themselves to shove their worldview down the throats of other people?

Why should we idly sit by and accept that perhaps, just perhaps, America is at fault because public intellectuals or opinion leaders say so?

Therefore, why sound clever by blaming America?

Look, if Kishore even went so far as to quote a Hong Kong journalist who said that “China owes a huge debt of gratitude to Osama bin Laden” for diverting America’s attention away from China and allowing the Chinese to focus on expanding their economy, then there is even more reason to be worried about the future.

You might be allowed to be hopeful that Al-Qaeda or its surrogates will never eventually achieve what they set out to do because they will collapse under the burden of their own ideology.

But if America is no longer mighty enough to take the fight to fanatics, then Al-Qaeda or its surrogates might just achieve their expansion plans.

Then it is really time to start freaking out because you shouldn’t be expecting China to do its share of protecting any time soon on your behalf, because they never even had their eye on the problem the last 10 years since 9/11.

A personal history of 9/11

A personal history of 9/11

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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

Courtesy: ibtimes.com

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.