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How would you say that 9/11 changed the United States?

We're moving into something heavier and more reflective with today's topical question. With the anniversary of one of this country's most tragic and transformative events in our history having just passed, this seemed the appropriate choice.

I'll be honest. I've put this one off until the last minute, because thinking back on it doesn't exactly provoke the warmest of fuzzies. Really, it's closer to exhuming a long dead loved one and reminiscing about their funeral service. But regardless of the smoke surrounding what went down, it's as they say: it behooves us to never allow ourselves to forget what happened that day nor, perhaps even more critical and to the point, can we dare fail to take heed of and understand what came as a direct result in the days, weeks, months, and even years afterward and why we should all learn from it.

The initial response of the public after what transpired? Shock. Disbelief. Heartbreak. Trauma. Then? Bonding, mourning, a new sense of togetherness and vulnerability. Then anger. We went through all of the stages of grief. And what was the response of those in control? Well, the feds did what they oftentimes do in moments like these: they seized the opportunity to take us to war. But not only did they go after those allegedly responsible. No, just over a month later, the Patriot Act was signed into law, despite many of its new allowances being, for all intents and purposes, blatantly unconstitutional.

One could, and many did, see this as a case of those having been elected to protect its citizenry instead taking advantage of us at a time where we were at our most vulnerable - emotionally raw, enraged, and grieving - by using our fear and hunger for vengeance to allow our own liberty to be stripped away as collateral damage in the name of making it easier to find and take down those involved in the attacks along with anyone who dared follow in their footsteps. In short, in our emotional haze, we traded our own liberty for the promise of greater security.

A top-secret program called Stellar Wind was put into play which allowed the federal government to conduct electronic surveillance on anyone in the country on a whim - no court order or warrant needed. FBI-delayed notices for search warrants were snuck in and suddenly made legal. The NSA began collecting international mail and phone communications without court order. Legal scholars and civil liberties organizations decried these for the clear violations they posed, but the provisions prevailed.

Today, despite the whole basket of unconstitutional violations initially being written to "sunset" (i.e., expire) at certain dates, most of if not all of these allowances have been extended repeatedly until ultimately being permanently codified into law. Yes, over two decades later, and they're still with us. Because of course they are. Because if human history has taught us anything, it's that those in power tend to seek more of it and, if granted it, rarely relinquish it.

How did the events of 9/11 change this country? It led to us all being considerably less free.


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