NEW YORK – When America absorbed the bombings at the Boston Marathon, what was striking was what did not happen. Twelve years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the country was saddened, but it was also better informed.
There was little of the rampant jingoism, get-them-at-all-costs bloodlust, constant speechifying, and flag-waving that followed the 2001 attacks. Perhaps most remarkable was the absence of reflexive Islamophobia and of the willingness to fight any war – even the wrong war in the wrong country for the wrong reasons – against the supposedly culpable “other.”
Instead, this time, Americans’ sadness was mingled with cynicism and suspicion. The country is warier of being manipulated. While Americans certainly mourn the dead and support the city of Boston, there has been a kind of penetration into the national consciousness that, after the 2001 attacks, America’s leaders used the bogeyman of terrorism to encroach on individual rights, fund almost every conceivable domestic-security boondoggle, and advance the self-interested agendas of the defense and surveillance industries.
Even conservative, Fox News-watching Americans have become aware, in a way that was not the case in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, that America has created its own “blowback.” The spin that worked so well back then – that the attacks occurred because “they hate our freedoms” – does not ring true anymore.