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Seven Years Later, Impact of 9/11 Still Resonates

Seven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a panel of writers and scholars examines the event's continuing impact on American life and on the world.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now we explore the impact of 9/11 on American life with Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago, John Ridley, author, award-winning director and screenwriter, Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter for Townhall.com; and Martin Espada, poet, professor of English at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

    And, Martin Espada, to you first.

    How do you read the impact 9/11 has had on Americans?

  • MARTIN ESPADA, Poet:

    Well, as a poet, I would have to say that 9/11 has changed the language.

    First of all, there’s the phrase 9/11 itself. It’s a big abstraction. And we who remember what happened that day have to do whatever we can to make that big abstraction as concrete as possible, so that we truly remember those who were murdered that day, so this does not turn into a memorial by rote, like so many others. And, this way, the dead can truly be honored.

    There is another way, however, in which I think 9/11 changed the language. In the name of 9/11, in the name of the war on terror, phrases like weapons of mass destruction and enhanced interrogation have entered our political vocabulary.

    These phrases, for me, divorce language from meaning. And, thus, they divorce action from consequence. If you are engaged in enhanced interrogation, you are not engaged in torture. And, thus, we as a society come to embrace torture in the name of security.

    I think we have to do whatever we can to combat this tendency in the language. The fact is that this language is used to foster a culture of fear, so that people will, in turn, act against their own interests. And that’s why we’re now embroiled in two wars without end.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Right. We will pick up. You have thrown out a lot of things at us here. So, we will pick up on some of those, as many as we can.

    Amanda Carpenter, is it concrete to you?

  • AMANDA CARPENTER, Townhall.Com:

    Yes, it is.

    I mean, living in Washington, what happened on 9/11 is in my mind every time I get on a metro bus. There’s been many times I have gotten off because I have seen what I thought might be a suspicious package, every time I’m on a crowded freeway, and I see an abandoned van that might look suspicious.

    And then, you know, as — I’m 25, and so, after 9/11, a lot of the young men I went to school with, my brother, joined the military because of what happened. And I — it seems like I find out every other month that there is somebody I knew very well that got hurt. I found out yesterday, someone, my neighbor had — a boy that lived down the road lost both his legs. And, so, that is something that is very real to me every single day.

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