Tuesday 24 October 2017

America remembers: Land of the fearful

The real and lasting damage of the September 11 terrorist attacks has been to America's mindset and its economy, says Neil Tweedie

A worker looks up at New York's Tribute in Light, which is composed of 88 huge searchlights that beam into the sky near the site of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan
A worker looks up at New York's Tribute in Light, which is composed of 88 huge searchlights that beam into the sky near the site of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan

There is something sinister in the term Homeland Security. Homeland sounds a little too like Fatherland for comfort, a place demanding unthinking loyalty. Very un-American, one might imagine, but then Americans are not as free-wheeling as they like to think they are. Most of them like rules, enforced with a brand of passive aggression all the more unsettling for being delivered with a smile as bright as it is indifferent.

They don't even manage the smile at JFK when you hand over your passport. Well, some do. Things have lightened a little since the early post-9/11 era when any foreigner was an object of suspicion. The Orwellian technology remains, however: the fingerprint scanner and camera, adding you to some vast, churning database, and increasingly for those boarding flights in the United States, the hugely intrusive whole-body scanner. Land of the Free-ish.

Yet, this stuff, billions of dollars worth of it, doesn't work. On Thursday night, the minute after President Barack Obama finished his speech to Congress on how he proposed to get 14 million unemployed Americans back to work, ABC News cut into the broadcast to report that a team of al-Qa'ida operatives was loose in the US.

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