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Scholars Weigh in on Sept. 11 Aftermath

Scholars and Students Weigh in on Sept. 11

UC Riverside scholars are available to discuss the impacts of the terrorist attacks on American culture, foreign policy and politics, and on the nation's global reputation.

(August 3, 2011)

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed America and Americans in profound ways. On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, these University of California, Riverside faculty have published research or can offer new insights into how the events of Sept. 11 changed Americans, the United States and the world. UCR students reflect on how their lives have been changed in a thoughtful video, "Voices of a Generation."


Charles Evered, associate professor of theater

Evered, a Navy Reserve officer, was at Ground Zero a few days after the attacks. “It changed me forever,” he says. Evered was one of a handful of New York playwrights who were invited to write for the Brave New World showcase commemorating the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11. His 10-minute play about a sophisticated couple from New York City who forget they’ve volunteered to “adopt” a sailor for dinner during Fleet Week became a full-length play and a feature-length movie that starred Bebe Neuwirth, Peter Coyote and Ethan Peck. “Adopt a Sailor” focuses on a young sailor heading off to war and the sacrifices of men and women in the armed forces. “It’s about how just because we hold different viewpoints that doesn’t make us unpatriotic,” Evered says. To commemorate the 10-year anniversary he wrote a short play, “TEN,” that will premiere Sept. 10 at the Solley Theater at The Arts Council of Princeton, N.J. The play tells the story of a woman at a train station in New Jersey who is still waiting for her husband to get off the train she put him on 10 years ago, on Sept. 11, and the police officer who tries to help her move on.

Augustine J. Kposowa, professor of sociology

The United States overreacted after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the consequences have not been good for America or the world, Kpsowa says. "The attacks could have been used as important lessons for the nation. But we have not asked these questions: Why was the United States attacked? What have been the consequences of America’s reaction to those attacks? What is the end game? Our response was to launch two wars, in one case attacking a country that played no role in Sept. 11. The country has changed in a way that is not ideal." The U.S. created a huge bureaucracy – Homeland Security – that must be supported financially and Americans continue to be subjected to humiliating experiences at airports, he says. "In the United States, we do not address the root causes of problems; rather, we respond to their external manifestations. If anyone dares to challenge the prevailing opinion, he or she is labeled un-American or even anti-American. Osama bin Laden may well be dead, but the U.S. response to the attacks he inspired suggest that he achieved some of what he wanted."

Laila Lalami, associate professor of creative writing

“Americans’ collective memory of Sept. 11 is that of an airliner crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade Center,” Lalami says. “This image has shaped how Americans see their country: as a victim of foreign aggression, as a bulwark against dark forces of Islamic fundamentalism, and as a seeker of justice for those who had died. But in the 10 years that have followed, America went on to create a whole new story around itself abroad. The peoples of North Africa and the Middle East also have a collective memory shaped around a series of images: that of the shock and awe of March 20 in Baghdad, of hooded prisoners in orange jumpsuits on their knees at Guantánamo Bay, of a pyramid of naked men at Abu Ghraib prison. The way in which America’s story has unfolded in the last 10 years has defied all of our imaginations.” Lalami is the author of “Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits” and “Secret Son.” She has written about North Africa for the Nation, the Daily Beast, and Foreign Policy, among many other publications.

Toby Miller, professor and chair of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies

Television news has not adequately reported on fundamental issues and the influence of the United States around the world. The impacts are enormous when it comes to public ignorance regarding peace, militarism and the environment, Miller says. “The international political content of news has diminished significantly (since 1981), excusing and excluding U.S. citizens from a vital part of the policy process – informed public comment, dissent and consent.” TV coverage of governmental, military and international affairs dropped from 70 percent of network news in 1977 to 60 percent in 1987 and 40 percent in 1997, he notes. Miller’s book, “Cultural Citizenship: Cosmopolitanism, Consumerism, and Television in a Neoliberal Age” (Temple University Press, 2007), includes a chapter on media coverage of Sept. 11 and the Iraq invasion.

Jonathan Ritter, assistant professor of music

Ritter, the co-author of “Music in the Post-9/11 /World” (Routledge in 2007), says that people around the world continue to turn to music as a way of making sense of the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath. “Within the United States, such musical reactions ranged from contemplative laments to vitriolic odes of revenge, heard in contexts that ranged from the intimacy of private homes and community churches to the public stages of mass-mediated benefit concerts,” he says. Music also was used in more subtle ways: in television news coverage; in the kinds of music that classical music institutions chose to program or cancel; and in the decisions made by media corporations and musicians about what sort of music and types of messages were appropriate at the time. He continues to study musicians’ responses to global terror and intensified surveillance infrastructures, as well as the long-term impact of Sept. 11 on human rights.


Muhamad Ali, assistant professor of religious studies

Sept. 11 has shaped how Americans view religion in different ways, Ali says. “Many Muslims and non-Muslims have had more initiatives of outreach programs, interfaith dialogues in mosques, churches and synagogues, as well as have demonstrated increased interest in studying the Quran, the history of Muhammad and Islam in general in classrooms and academic settings (workshops, seminars, lectures, publications, documentary films). On the other hand, negative perceptions about Islam and religion in general (as many reactions to the 9/11 also have used religious language like Crusade and holy war) have become more widespread (publications, online comments, sermons, films, social media/networks). The Internet and communication technology have played in this diversification of views among Americans toward Islam and religion.”

Reza Aslan, associate professor of creative writing

Islam is undergoing an historic reformation, Aslan says, adapting itself to the realities of the world around it. The internationally known Iranian-American writer and scholar of religions is a regular commentator for American Public Media’s Marketplace and the Middle East analyst for CBS News, and has written for numerous national publications. His first book, “No god but God,” was published in 2005 and has been translated into half a dozen languages. A revised edition, with new material on the death of Osama bin Laden, Arab Spring, the women’s movement and how the Internet is changing Islam, will be released on Sept. 10. His second book, “How to Win a Cosmic War: Why We're Losing the War on Terror,” was published by Random House in 2009.

David Glidden, professor of philosophy

In a 2002 article, “Borderline Disorders,” Glidden wrote on the nature of terrorism and the Sept. 11 attack from the point of view social morality and male attachment disorders. Human beings are bound to one another out of a fellowship that is the foundation of community, he wrote. “The enemies of humanity, like Osama bin Laden, replace native fellow-feeling with apocalyptic ambition, to release resentment against a world they despise. And so terrorists search for whatever ideology, religious dogma or self-righteous cause that would invert value and depict evil as goodness. Cut off from community, they become the monsters of humanity.”

Howard Wettstein, professor of philosophy

Wettstein has published on the topics of religious experience, awe, the problem of evil and the viability of philosophical theology. He is working on a book, “The Significance of Religious Experience,” that will be published by Oxford University Press. He can talk about his perspective of the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, based on his experiences lecturing at universities in Israel and Al-Quds University, the only Arab university in Jerusalem. His conversations with Palestinians while traveling in the region for more than 15 years and teaching philosophy at Al-Quds University have encouraged him. “When progress on political affairs seems stalled, perhaps it's time for human contact, person to person,” he says.


David Eastmond, professor of cell biology and toxicologist

Eastmond investigates the mechanisms involved in the toxicity and carcinogenesis of environmental and agricultural chemicals. He provides information allowing the potential adverse health effects associated with chemical exposure in human populations to be more accurately estimated. He can comment in general terms about what the exposure to hazardous chemicals may mean after a period of years has gone by, and the human health effects of occupational and environmental toxins.

Samuel Carranza
, Psychology
"We used to feel like we were really untouchable. I remember as a kid it'd always be 'America, No. 1,' right? Like there's no way that anyone can do anything to us. And then I feel like after that crash is just that feeling at the back of your head, just knowing that something like that could very well happen to us and it's just a reminder that we're all pretty fragile people."

Sorfieu Alghali, Business Administration
"I was in eighth grade, so I was in school actually when it happened. We didn't know what was going on until our teacher told us there's been an accident, she said. One of the planes crashed into one of the towers in New York. I'm from New Jersey, so it was next door."

Chatura Ahangama, Computer Engineering
"9-11, I was in Sri Lanka, it's another country, around, right next to India. I was in a hospital and I saw the attack on TV and everybody at the hospital was just gathered around that TV, looking at it. And everybody was just like, 'What's happening right now?' And this was a different country too, so everyone was just confused... a lot of confusion was felt when that was happening."

Jelena Radovic Fanta, Anthropology
"September 11th... I'm from Chile, from South America, September 11th has always been an important date for us... so we turned on the TV at home to see what was going on in Chile in the news and that's when we see that one of the towers in New York had fallen. Later to be followed by the other one.

"So I think it really leads us to question what is the role of our countries in the world? What can we do to strive for more peaceful coexistence? How do we respond to that? I think hopefully it will lead to greater understanding between countries around the world, where there's a lot of misconceptions as
to why things are the way they are right now."

Lola Ali, Business
"I was in Nigeria, I don't remember what grade I was though, but I just remember hearing on the news and being really scared because I have cousins
in New York. I was just hoping it didn't get to them at all."

Fatima Engineer, Psychology
"When 9-11 happened, one of my friends who's... she's Irish, and her mother specifically told her that morning, she said, 'When you go to school don't treat Fatima any differently.' And even she didn't understand what her
mother meant by that. She was kind of you know, just in shock. Why would I treat her any different? As we got older, and as we grew up and talked about it, we started realizing what her mother really meant. And I think this generation really is a lot more different and people are much more understanding now than they were back then."

Ayushi Tyagi, Neuroscience
"You know, it has definitely changed the way that we view the world. There's a lot more, you know... everyone's very cautious wherever we go and you always have these... the stereotypes that are against certain groups of people and these stereotypes have mainly risen over the past decade because of what happened."

John Oakley, International Relations
"One of the great things that our generation will have to do, one of the great challenges, is that eventually we'll have to learn how to reconcile between fundamentalist extremists and people that are simply Islam by religion."

Claire Cylkowski, Psychology
"A lot of people probably grew up here in that comfortable little lifestyle, don't really think much about what's going on around them. Something as tragic as this kind of shook a lot of people up. And so, hopefully people get involved and think about what they are doing and their actions. So I think our generation might be a little bit more proactive because of that. A little bit more willing to help, or at least respecting other cultures a little bit more."

Tim Lay, Business
"I think really it made our generation a bit more aware of what was going on around us and I think people became more interested in what was going on outside the U.S. Current affairs, things like that. So I think that as a population it made us a lot more educated and a lot more aware of our surroundings."

Sara Ross, Liberal Studies
"When that day comes, that September 11th date comes every year, and I realize it's September 11th, despite what's going on in school or the rest of my life I remember and I take a moment because I still have those images in my head. And I think that all of us who are able to remember it - we carry that with us."

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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