I’m going to preface this with the fact that I have a brother in active service (US Navy), and 18 years ago I had a classmate whose mother worked in the twin towers and a mother who worked for the federal government in DC. I am well aware of the direct impact that the attacks had on people’s lives, and am not attempting to undercut that.
Americans are a narcissistic bunch, as a whole, and we tend to ignore realities that either don’t impact us directly or might require us to adjust our world-view. And it’s much easier to pretend that 9/11 was an attack on our “American-ness” than it is to acknowledge that it wasn’t actually about us.
So let’s be really clear here, the US was not the primary target of the 9/11 attacks. We were convenient and flashy collateral damage, and given the president at the time we were ripe for massive over-reaction. Those attacks, which were wildly successful in their actual goal, were aimed at every single moderate or secularly-inclined Muslim on the planet. Every Muslim-majority country in which church and state were separated.
Al-Qaeda wanted to punish Muslims who didn’t support radical ideology, and they picked an incredibly effective way to do it.
In less than a day, the better part of a billion individuals went from being accepted parts of their communities and respected neighbours to being the scary “others.” Every nationalistic fringe group looking for someone to hate suddenly had an easy and acceptable target.
So wave the flag on 9/11, and mourn the dead. But also take the time to remember that it isn’t always about us, and mourn the freedoms and respect we so easily allowed fear to strip from our fellow humans.