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9/11: A stepping stone for those with agendas

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 9/10/2011, 8:50 p.m.
Progress and memory in Lower Manhattan

He could've easily been describing my experience, give or take a few hundred miles. When I told some of my peers in college that I was from New York, I got the same look I used to get in high school (Bronx High School of Science) when I told classmates I was actually from the Bronx. It was a look of pity. It was a look of sorrow. It was the look of one big group hug waiting to happen.

Some of my conservative friends would try and play into my city pride in attempts to persuade me that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made sense. Folks who went out of their way to tell me they couldn't stand New York City when they met me were now suddenly happy to have a city like mine represent America.

Then President George W. Bush told the country to keep shopping, as if that were the best way to deal with tragedy. But folks listened. The rise of the Internet as an accessible platform for almost every American produced dozens of conspiracy theories and Photoshopped images that now surface during any big story or tragedy. In 2011, the platform was YouTube. Ten years ago, it was a GeoCities page.

But the conspiracy theories online, along with the new wave of increasingly partisan politics (helped along by the rise of FOX News), made Sept. 11 seem like another in a long list of tragedies to those who didn't really have ties to said tragedy.

One of my close college friends once told me that the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington didn't scare him, but the shootings at Columbine did. Why? He was a suburban kid who went to suburban schools and could relate to the conditions that fostered that tragedy. To this day, it's one of the most honest things a person has ever told me. Sept. 11 just brought to light attitudes, beliefs and opinions that were already there for the rest of the country.

In other words, it was a prop.