U.S. vs. Them
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was kind of an idiot. I didn't know much about the globe or politics or the workings of my own city. I'd only just left the North Valley for the UNM area, and the nine-mile location change seemed a big one.
Class was dismissed because of the tragedy, and I didn't know what to do. We smoked cigarettes and watched the news attentively, maybe for the first time. We pondered whether Albuquerque was next, given the lab, the base and all the secret government things we assumed were happening in the desert.
Some of the guys from my high school had enlisted in the military upon graduation. Easy money, they thought. They hadn't received great grades. They hadn't gotten anyone pregnant. They didn't have solid plans. And there was no way a war was going to break out, right? Real wars were a thing of the past, the subject of movies. I thought of those guys as I watched footage of the planes hitting the towers on repeat, the news anchors stumbling over their words.
Though we prided ourselves on individualism, that outsider ego trip was dissolving under the pressure of nationalism.
We were clever anti-establishment jerks who were barely making the college thing work. But on 9/11, some friends were ready to sign up for the military, too. They were ready to kill some terrorists. Whatever separated them from the frat boys who broke the windows of Arab-owned businesses that day was vanishing. Though we prided ourselves on individualism, that outsider ego trip was dissolving under the pressure of nationalism.
When there's a "them," an enemy, there's suddenly a "we."
After 9/11, Alibi stacks were torn from their stands and dumped into the streets because an editorial suggested the United States’ foreign policy may have shared the blame for the attacks. This assertion has since become an accepted and much-discussed idea in mainstream media.
I was shocked at the reaction. It’s just words on paper, I thought at the time. But in those weeks, news—and, frankly, the broader world—stepped from the periphery into my line of sight.
A decade later as Sept. 11, 2011, approached, my apprehension as the Alibi’s news editor was that remembrance would trigger fanatical patriotism yet again. I wondered how the paper should interact with an anniversary destined to grow saturated and heavy with solemnity.
Memorializing an event is really about solidifying how the story will be told—which facts will be remembered, and which ones will be left out. To do our job as Albuquerque’s alternative news weekly, we are voicing a range of perspectives to add to the narrative of this anniversary.
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