Fear and Suspicions in the post-9/11 US

PHOTO courtesy of huffingtonpost.com | Increased airport security resulted from the heightened fear following the 9/11 attacks.

PHOTO courtesy of huffingtonpost.com | Increased airport security resulted from the heightened fear following the 9/11 attacks.


Dianna Herrera-Goudeau ’20
Contributing Writer

Last week, the Washington Post published an article by Hanson O’Haver about the repercussions of a post-9/11 United States, specifically the slogan, “if you see something, say something.” O’Haver argues that a vigilant United States is different from one that is paranoid. I agree with him.

I, like many of us, have only known the United States post-9/11. I was three years old during the attack on the Twin Towers, so I don’t actually know how it was before 2001, but I have noticed the increase in paranoia since the most recent onset of terror attacks and threats.

Because O’Haver is from New York, he has a different view of what the world is like, whereas I am from a relatively small town in West Texas. He argues that because of the slogan, “if you see something, say something,” there is an increase in Americans who live in unreasonable fear. “Reports of suspicious packages in New York grew from 814 in 2002 to 37,614 in 2006,” O’Haver said in reference to the rise of vigilance and fear. Those numbers seem huge to me, and it is shocking. It reminds me of a crime show where the main character, a detective, says not to tell the press about a suspect or a danger because it will cause a mass panic. Then, of course, someone does and the scene cuts to a police station with phones ringing off the hook, reporting sights of whatever suspect is being searched for. “If you see something, say something” has caused a decade-long mass panic that is still occuring. Yet, even in fictional scenarios, there is an understanding that causing the public to go into hyper-vigilance is not helpful.

Still, I hear about the “everyday heroes” who saw something and then said something, most recently Harry Bains, who called the police after seeing the alleged terrorist charged with the New York/New Jersey bombings. I think that these “heroes” got lucky; out of 5000 calls, at least one will turn something up. Vigilant citizens can help, but there is always the possibility of a bias being shown. There is nothing wrong with looking out for something bad to happen, but there are cases when the assumption is that we should be watching out for a certain group of people. From “Stop and Frisk” to the Arizona SB 1070, racial profiling and an imbalance in exactly what there is to be vigilant about, a very real problem is coming out of these supposed “solutions.”

I do not think that there is nothing to fear, but that within a nation, an increase in fear and fear mongering only causes an increase in danger for all people. Racial bias and stereotyping is still a large problem and, because of this fact, the connotation of “if you see something, say something” to many people is that a specific type of person needs to be watched.

Being panicked and acting out of fear is akin to cornering an animal; act in the best interest of survival and that’s it. The people of the United States have been treated like cornered animals now lashing out at every “suspicious” person or thing they walk past.

Leave a Comment