Coffee, Tea, and Politics: 9/11, a decade later

Amy Leong/The Jibsheet

It’s been just over a decade since 9/11, and that event permanently shaped American culture. In a discussion chaired by Professor Trevor Tate of the Political Science division, a group of 5 panelists explored the effect 9/11 had on America as a country in the decade after the terrorist attack.

The event took place in the rooms alongside the Cafeteria. Two tables were set up in a V formation, with three people at each table – the five panelists and Professor Tate. At first the audience was packed, but halfway through the two hour discussion around half the crowd dissipated as class time approached.

The panelists were Kristen Jensen, a BC student who previously served in the Marine Corp; Dr. Denise Vaughan; Dr. Russ Payne; Nora Haddad, a Running Start student; and Dr. Jawed Zouari, a political science professor who hails from Tunisia and teaches at Seattle University.

Professor Tate posed the questions for the panelists – the first one he asked was, “Was the US response to 9/11 right, and is the US a safer place because of it?”

Vaughan replied, “None of the studies suggest we’re any safer, and a singular response to a complex problem was absolutely inappropriate.”

Most of the panelists had similar opinions on this topic, but Zouari posed an interesting thought: “After 9/11, our response was understandable. But did we react to the right enemy? That is really the question.”

More questions followed concerning the American state of mind – it was agreed upon by most of the panelists that 9/11 and America’s response had done damage to American principles and given citizens an image of their country as being defined by the military.

“The U.S. ceased to be admired and became feared,” said Zouari.

An audience member posed the question, “Where would America be if this hadn’t happened?”

Haddad answered, “The U.S. as a whole would be significantly more introspective, dealing with our own economy. We wouldn’t be worrying about strife overseas.”

After a question asked by another member of the audience, the panel began discussing the current position of the U.S. as an economic powerhouse, and how that was affected by 9/11 and the decade of war that followed.

Professor Vaughan offered to talk about the economics. “The debt equals 100 percent of our GDP, but much of our debt is debt to ourselves. The media only talks about debt to China. I’m not in favor of the debt, but the cool thing is that people will lend us money. That means that they believe in us; they believe we’ll come back. We are still an economic powerhouse. The biggest problem isn’t debt by itself; it’s a lack of forward thinking.”

After discussing the debt and economy, Professor Tate talked about the culture gap between the U.S. and the Middle East; he then asked Haddad about how her generation would bridge the divide between the Middle East and America.

“It’s about giving it time – it’s a matter of letting people know that the Middle East is culture that exists in the world. … Education will make all the difference.”

After this, the panelists discussed the future-how America would move on, and how the panelists would describe the decade to their children. The panelists expressed hope for the future that with the end of the decade, the country could move forward.

That was the conclusion of Coffee, Tea, and Politics, a quarterly event sponsored by The Library Media Center, Student Programs, the Political Science Program, and the Associate of Science division. There will be another next quarter; the topic has not yet been announced.