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The summer before I started high school I took my first trip to New York. The Statue of Liberty was encased in scaffolding that year, but the World Trade Center — the iconic Twin Towers — were open for tourists to visit. For a 14-year-old from rural Colorado, the Top of the World Observatory at the south tower was an unforgettable experience.
Twenty years ago this week, the World Trade Center towers were decimated in an act of terrorism that resulted in thousands of lives lost that day in New York City, in a field in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
As we remember the horror of that day and the decades of war that followed, we need to remember the root cause of 9/11 wasn’t something new, and it wasn’t just the result of poor foreign policy in the preceding half century. In 1995 the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by a homemade bomb concealed in a rental truck. In 1999 the mass shooting at Columbine High School shook Colorado, and there have been hundreds… no, thousands… of similar events since, at home and around the world, that leave us all saying the same thing Aaron Brown said as he watched the north tower of the WTC collapse on air. We’ve witnessed enough similar events in the last two decades that we ought to be able to identify the underlying cause and come up with a plan to address it.
What motivated the actions that brought about 9/11, and the Oklahoma City bombing, and any number of other foreign and domestic acts of terror? Extremism. Fanaticism. Fundamentalism.
These “-isms” can be religious, political, territorial or social. The more you blend the causes (eg religious plus political, or social plus political, or territorial plus religious, etc.), the worse the outcome.
I spent a third of my life on the fringe of religion and politics where conspiracy theories breed like bunnies in the spring, and I can attest that it’s a dangerous place. Throw in “algorithms” on social media deliberately designed to make us tribal and territorial, and we’ve got all the ingredients for terrorism in the name of whatever cause trips our proverbial trigger this week. What a mess.
We can point fingers at the “radicals” who don’t look like us all we want, meanwhile we’re busily growing our own versions in nearly every facet of society, and setting ourselves up for more “there are no words” events.
When we say “never forget” about 9/11, one of the things we shouldn’t forget is that toxic root of extremist fanaticism. It never ends well, for anyone.
By NIKI TURNER – email@example.com