Overall, I think 9-11 has caused the U.S. to put security as its number one priority – even with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as natural borders! The obsession with security as a reaction to fear and antagonization has led to a loss in freedom – be it privacy, travel, or peace. Every child born since 9-11 has been living during a time of war. They may be fought somewhere else but the mental and economic effects are inescapable in daily life. Roberto Prestigiacomo and other Trinity University drama faculty produced a show called ‘8’ – the age of Prestigiacomo’s daughter, who has only known life with a nation at war. It was mostly minimalistic and abstract, people running in patterns, scary masks and sets with bright colors, trying to recreate this post 9-11 world from the view of a child. I experienced a lot of emotions. The closing involved a lot of water – a kind of giant slip’n’slide on stage, and this had the most cleansing and hopeful effect… I believe it may be the first major artistic production in San Antonio that addressed the post 9-11 topic.
Furthermore, the focus on security and military efforts abroad has caused neglect to the basic needs at home – laid off teachers, failing infrastructure. It takes only a few listens on NPR to hear the details of many such maladies.
John, you had asked me about a response as an artist. I was not nearly as serious about composing back then, but I remember hearing one of my teachers talking about the feeling of ‘how do I start to compose after this?’ I have not written any pieces grappling with 9-11 and its aftermath; maybe it is not yet time for me to do so.
I think 9-11 will continue to affect the American psyche, especially if its memory keeps being used by politicians, military leaders and ordinary citizens to justify further fighting, occupation, racism or de-humanizing of other people in the world. The U.S. is an open and welcoming place for the most part, but it is part of a whole world of people, customs and ideas. I am glad that the 9-11 attacks brought the American people together, but I wish that it had been for healing, not a campaign for security and retribution.