FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Knowledge in the Blood: Stories About 9-11

A Saudi Arabian exchange student starting 12thgrade in an American high school this fall is bullied because his name is Osama. “Something about 11thof September?” I learn.

Jonathan Jansen called it “knowledge in the blood” when he wrote of the vindictiveness and hostility of Afrikaaner youth born after the end of apartheid as they entered his desegregated college in Pretoria, South Africa. Jansen’s exploration of the rigid views held by these youth about a past they had never lived illuminate the lasting stories we tell about 9-11, and the legacy in those stories we are passing on to our youth and now to a group of young Saudis who have come here because of their leadership and potential to forge lasting relationships with young Americans.

The new American voters in the election of 2020 will be the first generation of voters born after 9-11. The attacks 18 years ago are their story though not their experience. But what exactly is the nature of that story? Is it a tale of injury and revenge? Is it a tale of sorrow, grief, reconciliation and reconstruction? Is it an account which valorizes the blood sacrifice of American youth seeping into sand in Iraq and Afghanistan, largely forgotten and ignored conflicts which have been ongoing ever since? Is there any consideration in our stories of the massive loss of Afghani and Iraqi life, or the atrocities at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? Have we attempted to come together with people where between us is offense and injury to try to co-create a future where such harms will never happen again? How have our stories and division created our complicity in the world’s violence and misery as regimes have been toppled and destabilized all over North Africa, the Middle East and beyond?

Ivor Goodson in a book about teaching said, “…stories do social and political work as they are told. A story is never just a story – it is a statement of belief and morality, it speaks about values ….[stories] may accept political and social priorities without comment, or they may challenge those priorities.” If American youth bully Arabian boys called Osama, what is the nature of the stories we are telling which they are now enacting? How have we become stuck in a particular set of “political and social priorities” and have refused opportunities to reconcile ourselves with a past that cannot be changed but which can pass, and from which we could build a better future? How much has our refusal to shift from a narrative which requires revenge been the fertile seedbed for the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and for the persistence of ISIS which is reimagining the spaces a failed Al Qaeda did not conquer? How much has the particular way we have persisted in telling these stories prevented our healing and recovery and learning?

As we recognize and commemorate the 18thanniversary of the tragedy and horror of that day we can stand with the survivors whose loss is still so keen, we can acknowledge the ways the world changed for so many of us as we watched with desperation the helplessness of those trapped by flames and collapsing super-structures, and we can commit to build bridges with a more nuanced understanding and empathy towards those whose stories are different from our own in order to contribute to a world in which there is never again a gap so wide it seems it can only be filled by fire.

More articles by:

Dr. Rachel Cunliffe is Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution at Portland State University.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
December 12, 2019
Ramzy Baroud
Money, Power and Turf: Winning the Middle East Media War at Any Cost
Martha Rosenberg
How Does One of the Most Hated Industries Stay Profitable?
Steven Salaita
Renouncing Israel on Principle
Basav Sen
Most Americans Support Phasing-Out Fossil Fuels…Isn’t That Worth a Headline?
George Ochenski
Pride Goeth Before the Fall
Ted Rall
The U.S. Government Lied about the Afghanistan War, They Couldn’t Have Done It Without Media Lapdogs
Daniel Falcone
How Working Class Atomization and the Mohawk Valley Formula Gave Us Centrist Democrats
Lawrence Wittner
A Boss is a Boss: Nurses Battle for Their First Union Contract at Albany Medical Center
Kris De Decker
We Can’t Do It Ourselves
James A Haught
Zealots in High Office
Robert Fisk
When You Follow the Gun Trail, You Can End Up in Expected Places
Jerome Irwin
No Israeli Peace, Joy or Goodwill at Christmastime for Palestinians
George Wuerthner
Goat Grazing is No Solution to Wildfires
December 11, 2019
Vijay Prashad
Why the Afghanistan Papers Are an Eerie Reminder of Vietnam
Kenneth Surin
Australia’s Big Smoke
Sameer Dossani
Ideology or Popularity: How Will Britain Vote?
John W. Whitehead
Who Will Protect Us From an Unpatriotic Patriot Act?
Binoy Kampmark
Interference Paranoia: Russia, Reddit and the British Election
Scott Tucker
Sure, Impeach Trump, But Let’s be Honest
Nyla Ali Khan
Homogenizing India: the Citizenship Debate
Thomas Knapp
Congress: The Snail’s Pace Race
Shawn Fremstad
Modern Family Progressivism
Joseph Essertier
Julian Assange, Thanks for Warning Japanese About Washington
William Minter
How Africa Could Power a Green Revolution
December 10, 2019
Tony McKenna
The Demonization of Jeremy Corbyn
John Grant
American Culture Loves a Good Killer
Jacob Hornberger
Afghanistan: a Pentagon Paradise Built on Lies
Nick Licata
Was Trump Looking for Corruption or a Personal Favor?
Thomas M. Magstadt
What’s the Matter With America?
Brian Tokar
Climate Talks in Madrid: What Will It Take to Prevent Climate Collapse?
Ron Jacobs
Where Justice is a Game: Impeachment Hearings Redux
Jack Rasmus
Trump vs. Democracy
Walden Bello
Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics
Binoy Kampmark
A Troubled Family: NATO Turns 70
Brian Horejsi
Citizens Are Never Trusted
Michael Barker
Self-Defense in the Civil Rights Movement: the Lessons of Birmingham, 1963
John Feffer
Soldiers Who Fight War
Howie Wolke
Willingness to Compromise Puts Wilderness at Risk
December 09, 2019
Jefferson Morley
Trump’s Hand-Picked Prosecutor John Durham Cleared the CIA Once, Will He Again?
Kirkpatrick Sale
Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold
Ishmael Reed
Bloomberg Condoned Sexual Assault by NYPD 
W. T. Whitney
Hitting at Cuban Doctors and at Human Solidarity
Louisa Willcox
The Grizzly Cost of Coexistence
Thomas Knapp
Meet Virgil Griffith: America’s Newest Political Prisoner
John Feffer
How the New Right Went Global — and How to Stop It
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail