Americans were forced into fearful lives starting with Y2K, that fictitious, destructive force based on our technologically dependent lives that was supposed to, essentially, short out and cause electronic mayhem. People purchased protective goods and entered the new Millennium with nary a problem. Americans drove to and from work and enjoyed their lives and the relatively low gas prices they would never see again as the terrorism decade began. Americans were herded by fear because of a series of events that shaped the last 10 years.
The gas price was $1.21 at the station I walked past on the campus at the University of Illinois on Sept. 11, 2001. I spent that day in the Stacks, a private area of the library open to students with passes, researching and preparing for my next English class. When I exited the Stacks, the TV was on in the library. The bombings in New York were all the news that day. I went on to class, where a total of three students sat in their chairs. The teacher went on with the day’s topic, and I felt untouched by the tragedy so very far away. I had no family and friends in New York, so there was no immediate impact for me.
Sept. 11, 2001 was the precipice of a new fear in America – the fear of terrorism. Terror alerts would come to rule our lives.
Throughout the decade, Americans have seen gas prices skyrocket. We were ushered into a war, first to find weapons of mass destruction (never happened) and then to bring down Saddam Hussein (done without reason). The war evolved over the last seven years, and we are in both Iraq and Afghanistan still, and the culprits for the 9/11 attacks, Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, are still free and threaten Americans.
In came the terror-alert strategy during the Bush administration. Terror alerts monitor activities and notify Americans to prep for small- to large-scale threats. The state of constant fear shaped this decade. Rather than evading this reality, Americans have moved into hyper-reality, embracing constant news, reality TV shows, connection technology like iPhones and iPads, and Internet awareness sites like Facebook and Twitter where you can update your status to let everyone know what’s happening in your world. We live in the moment – knowing now that a moment is the difference between life and death, where citizens can be unexpectedly attacked without notification. Alerts help people act faster to avoid becoming casualties during a threat.
But we end this decade on a high note. After sinking into a recession and experiencing high job loss, coupled with high food and gas prices, Americans have suffered through this decade. We’ve seen some necessary changes occur to our infrastructure because of outside forces. However, we are slowly evolving into a stronger country because of what we endured. Currently, businesses are hiring, and spending during the holiday season was unexpectedly high, indicating a boom in the economy. We know where we have been as a people in fear and blindness, but we won’t enter the next decade in the same place.
Americans are learning we have to work together. There is no us and them, nor is there Republican and Democrat. We are back to “We the people of the United States of America …” which are words we’ve heard before that helped build this country into a great nation. We can take steps away from fear and thrive once again as we enter 2011 if we make a choice to leave the complications of the terrorism decade behind.
Angelic Jones is a freelance writer for Austin Weekly News.