X-Post: Seven Years Later, Impact of 9/11 Still Resonates

The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer takes a look back at the impact of 9/11 with a diverse panel that includes Martín Espada. Martín’s comments on how 9/11 has impacted language and politics are spot on but my favorite quote is when he is asked what the U.S. government should do with its enemies, “I also think we need to sit down and start talking to those enemies.”

Seven Years Later, Impact of 9/11 Still Resonates

Seven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a panel of writers and scholars examines the event’s continuing impact on American life and on the world.

JIM LEHRER: And now we explore the impact of 9/11 on American life with Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago, John Ridley, author, award-winning director and screenwriter, Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter for Townhall.com; and Martin Espada, poet, professor of English at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

And, Martin Espada, to you first.

How do you read the impact 9/11 has had on Americans?

MARTIN ESPADA, Poet: Well, as a poet, I would have to say that 9/11 has changed the language.

First of all, there’s the phrase 9/11 itself. It’s a big abstraction. And we who remember what happened that day have to do whatever we can to make that big abstraction as concrete as possible, so that we truly remember those who were murdered that day, so this does not turn into a memorial by rote, like so many others. And, this way, the dead can truly be honored.

There is another way, however, in which I think 9/11 changed the language. In the name of 9/11, in the name of the war on terror, phrases like weapons of mass destruction and enhanced interrogation have entered our political vocabulary.

These phrases, for me, divorce language from meaning. And, thus, they divorce action from consequence. If you are engaged in enhanced interrogation, you are not engaged in torture. And, thus, we as a society come to embrace torture in the name of security.

I think we have to do whatever we can to combat this tendency in the language. The fact is that this language is used to foster a culture of fear, so that people will, in turn, act against their own interests. And that’s why we’re now embroiled in two wars without end.

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Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

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