Like many Americans, last Saturday I paused a couple times during the day to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States by radical Islamist terrorists and thought about how it impacted and changed this nation.
As I watched and listened to television programs about the events surrounding the attacks and the people directly and indirectly affected by the tragedy, this thought came into my head:
I hope that as time goes by, the revisionist narratives that I heard in some of the pieces doesn’t become the only one future generations hear.
Mixed in with updated first-person stories from survivors from the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, first responders, family members, witnesses, commentators, writers and pundits were tales of how in the horrific moment in our nation’s history and its aftermath, people in the United States were able to unite behind common anger, grief, cause and resolve to find and punish those behind the attack.
What I didn’t hear much about during the time I spent watching and listening to these accounts was the negative impact and backlash 9/11 had on Muslim and Arabic Americans.
While most Americans may have become united, that unity wasn’t shared across the board with the Arabic American community or others perceived as being part of that community.
In the days and months after the attacks, tens of thousands of Arabic and Muslim Americans faced deep hostility from fellow Americans, some of whom they had known for much of their lives or time in these United States.
Fearing that some Muslims and Arabs in the country were national security threats, local, state and federal law enforcement and immigration agencies surveilled, harassed, arrested and detained many of them, sometimes for months without any charges.
Thousands of men, women and children were deported on the mere suspicion of having ties to alleged terrorists or for minor immigration violations without the benefit of a lawful hearing for just saying or having said or written something that was perceived as being derogatory about the United States.
Time after time, Arabic and Muslims I knew told me stories of xenophobic encounters they experienced and how afraid they were when people began to look at them differently, hurl racial slurs at them or tell them to go back from where they came.
A couple of college professors I knew told me how some of their students began to treat them in class and question how they were being graded.
One professor said that for months, people would drive by his house, which was on one of the city’s main streets, and scream out slurs and do damage to his yard.
The harassment got so bad that he had to move his teenaged daughter’s bedroom from the front of the house to the back out of fear of something happening to her.
I wasn’t just hearing or reading about these things; I was experiencing them firsthand from day one.
My wife’s two older children are Arab Americans and were high schoolers when 9/11 happened.
Shortly after the planes struck the Twin Towers and news began to say that Islamic terrorists were the culprits, I was awakened from a near sleep by a tearful phone call from my stepdaughter, who told me to come to get her and her brother from school.
When I asked her why, she told me that she couldn’t take any more of the verbal abuse she was receiving from kids in her classes, many of whom she had gone to school with her entire life, knew that she was part-Arabic and hadn’t had an issue with that until that day.
Her brother, on the other hand, told me that he didn’t like most of the people at school anyway and tuned them out the way he’d been doing for years.
Time did not soon take away the anti-Arabic/Muslim sentiment that swept the nation in the months and years after 9/11 either; it lingered for years.
People in cities and towns all over the nation, including this area, railed against Muslims in their communities and the building of mosques and Islamic centers in or near their backyards and businesses.
Some states and localities went so far as to pass laws banning the implementation of Sharia law.
Two instances around mosques being built or established that stood out to me happened in 2010 in Murfreesboro and in 2011 in Mayfield, Ky.
Both involved locals upon learning about them attempting to change the zoning codes in the areas in question.
The was also a big to-do in New York City and the entire country when a new Islamic center was planned a tenth of a mile from Ground Zero, despite the fact that there were already two other mosque a few blocks away.
As I drove Saturday morning to a professional development event, I did hear a story on National Public Radio about how 9/11 impacted Arabs and Muslims in America and another on CNN later that night, but that was about it for the major sources for news I use.
Just in case some think that I’m reaching and overstating here, I’m not.
There is a vast history of glossing over and revising events that happen in these United States.
From The Bottom where I see things, the most famous example of this is how former Confederates and their descendants were able to recast their armed rebellion that was the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression, as they promoted the Lost Cause narrative that is still prevalent today, as well as being taught in some Southern schools.
It happened on a lesser scale during World War I when German Americans faced extreme hostilities for a time and German names disappeared from certain ethnic foods, buildings and dogs.
It happened on a grander scale during WWII.
Every year, we commemorate the Allies’ great victories, and rightly so.
Often, you must do a little work to find things about the treatment of Japanese Americans, 120,000 of whom were imprisoned and had their homes, land and livelihoods taken from them.
Or find out how black, brown and Native American members of the that Greatest Generation were still being mistreated.
But you don’t have to go back that far to see how historic events can be glossed over and revised by one side when would like you to forgot how or what really happened.
One of those events occurred eight months ago when thousands of Donald Trump supporters invaded the Capitol to stop the certifying of Electoral College votes for President Joe Biden.
Don’t believe me? Ask a Trump Republican if what happened that day was an insurrection or passionate people exercising their constitutional rights?
So, commemorate and remember the events that have defined us as a nation and a people, just don’t’ revise or gloss over the not-so-great parts.
Before I go, I got to ask if you hear or see what three of our former presidents did to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11?
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama attended the ceremony at Ground Zero; George W. Bush spoke at Shanksville, Penn.; Joe Biden went to all three sites; and Jimmy Carter is approaching 94 years old and gets a pass.
Donald Trump made a last-second appearance at a New York City police precinct before heading off to do paid commentary at a third-rate, pay-per-view boxing match.
To quote a television talking head, Trump’s actions on 9/11 was just one more thing that can be added to the “what if Barack Obama had done this” list.
Speaking of Trump supporters, another apology to George W. Bush for some of the times I called him the worse president in my lifetime.
His comparison of the insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to the 9/11 hijackers was spot on.
It took the same type of extremist beliefs to do each of them.
Hi, Momma Lois.
TONY KENDALL of Hazel is a writer, teacher, actor, playwright and sports fanatic. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.