Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11th

I don't think I have ever given thought to this before, but, this is the first time in my life, or perhaps in the eleven years since that horribly memorable day, that I have lived in a country other than my own America, and truly had the opportunity to get a real, let's say "world perspective", on the events of that day and exactly how our government is viewed across the world.

America has been all I knew of, having traveled to but never lived in a new country, and my studies through high school focusing only on American government and how we have brought down the "evil governments" the world over. I have always considered myself to be lucky to have grown up in the U.S. with a democratic government leading us with the bright shining light carried by the statue of liberty, through the darkness cast by the evils of the world and leading the way for people from around the world to a better life. I am proud to be an American.

But let's get serious for a minute or two here.

While my life has been wonderful living in the U.S. I think that looking from a new vantage point here in Germany, that we have severely overstepped our bounds on many occasions. We as a country, be it the leaders or the people who put them into office, believe ourselves and our governmental system to be far superior to that of any other country. It is beyond me as to how we came to think that, but we're forcing it on others and that's just unfortunate.

Our country is the land of opportunity, seen to many people as an oasis from the troubles of the world. The oasis cannot expand much more though, there's no way that we can "rid the world of evils" by forcing others into our system. Though we don't see it as an evil, our system is an "evil" to others. We cannot keep forcing ourselves on other countries, forcing our system when they were happy with their system, living in peace before. 

What September 11th, 2001 did to my Generation.

From World War I through Watergate and beyond, every living generation has crises and catastrophes that help define it. It's no different for this generation, the so-called Millennials or Gen Y-ers, now coming of age, and 9/11 — an event that shattered any myth of American invulnerability and triggered wars that still rage half a world away.

I've never had a sense of this country as completely unbreakable, it's not that it's gone away in the past 11 years. I was a fifth-grader on September 11th, 2001 and I remember clearly when I heard of the events. Now I'm a 21-year-old senior at Michigan Technological University, currently living in Germany and my view has changed a bit.

In 5th grade at Johnson Elementary School, in Milford, MI I recall having the principle coming into our class and telling us that we were the only ones in the school being told about the day's events, we were mature enough to know, to grasp it. The school was on lock-down and we were told that a plane had crashed into the twin towers. At that age, I didn't realize that this one day, this one event, could change my life so greatly. I don't think I even knew what was going on.

When I arrived home that day, the only programs on TV were about the crashes, the terrorist attacks, and the deaths surrounding the events. I recall sitting in the living room with my brother watching CNN and wondering what was happening.

September 11th, 2001 has helped shape the lives of the young adults, like me, who were 8-16 years old on 9/11/2001. But then, there have been many life-changing events for us young Americans: the advent of Facebook; the election of Barack Obama as president; images of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans underwater after Hurricane Katrina; and even the more recent BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast. Still, there is no mistaking the connection between today's late teens and twenty-somethings who watched the terror of 9/11 unfold in school rooms and assembly halls.

It still resonates. If a generation's parents and historical cycles predispose them to beliefs and behaviors, 9/11 is a seminal event that still moves them. Polls released last year showed nearly 60% feel the U.S. is too involved in global affairs. More than eight in ten can't envision a time when terrorism won't be a threat to them. Is this a way to live our lives?

How the 2012 Presidential Election Ties in

Raised in an era when child protection became a priority and consumer goods became increasingly targeted to child buyers, my generation (or Gen Y-ers) are less interested in working for work's sake -- they're more likely to be looking for a job they can be passionate about, and more likely to live at home even. Though, I do find that I want to have work that I'm passionate about, I don't plan to live at home. I do see a lot of my friends, co-workers, and classmates as taking this path though, especially with the effects of the worst dip in the U.S. economy since the Great Depression.

Gen Y-ers, loosely described as those born from 1980 to 2005 — are the next big thing for this country. There are more of us, in raw numbers, than there are baby boomers; we outnumber Gen X-ers by three to one; we're much more likely to admire Google and Apple than General Motors or Exxon; and three-quarters of us think the U.S. gets no respect abroad.

My parent's generation, the baby boomers, and some generations back, saw government as something to be feared; Gen X-ers saw it as something largely irrelevant. Gen Y-ers or Millennials, see government as something weak, almost "deserving of your sympathy."

In 2008, newly-elected President Barack Obama went to Cairo and made a landmark speech addressed to Muslims. He traced the world's current turmoil in part to the legacy of European colonialism, which humiliated Muslim societies for centuries. But while rhetoric is no substitute for action, it does have power. The summer after Obama's speech, reformists in Iran mounted an electoral challenge that almost toppled the entrenched hard-line clerical regime there.

While it's wonderful that our president can have an effect on world affairs, it just goes along with my point that American's keep putting their noses where they don't belong. We should keep it on American soil and focus on our own problems before we go out throwing our views in someone else's face. A bit like I'm doing with this post right now.

I believe that both Obama and Romney hope that Americans across the country will take a moment to reflect upon the events of September 11, 2001, and all that our country has been through together since then. But few words are sure to be said to ease the pain still present in the families of victims and the gereration whose world view was shattered by this event.

It is important for both candidates to consider the future of the country and the young voters, current and future, because they will be taking over soon enough. Our opinions count too! Both sides are trying to listen, it's up to us to speak up! Then again, this generation seems more open-minded, less concerned with social issues like gay marriage. Technology has helped shape our lives; there is a less rah-rah view of the nation's place in the world.

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