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September 24, 2017

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"September 11, 2017”

The sixteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and in the skies over Pennsylvania provides an opportunity for considered reflection.

Time passing provides useful distance for relatively dispassionate discussion of how we have responded to the shocking, grotesque mass murder, now customarily referred to by the shorthand term "9/11."

How have the American people in total handled the challenge, now over the long term?

There is solid justification for high marks to the people, individually and collectively. Despite terrible destruction and thousands of deaths of Americans as well as citizens of other countries, as a national community we remained remarkably calm.

The population as a whole did not react with hysteria or any extremism. Anti-Islamic acts were mercifully infrequent, relatively isolated and waned over time. Collectively we condemn this behavior, investigate, and prosecute related criminal attacks.

The clearest parallel event to 9/11 is the surprise military attack by Japan on United States naval forces at Pearl Harbor Hawaii on December 7, 1941, which had severe, continuing repercussions within American social as well as political life. Intense collective fear and anger led to the internment and more general persecution of Japanese-Americans on much of the West Coast of the U.S. Racial hatred characterized brutal Pacific combat in the war on both sides.

Internment was contrary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's wartime emphasis on national unity, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover opposed the move, but politically ambitious California Attorney General Earl Warren was adamant. This context means that the military service of Japanese-American troops in the European theatre is even more heroic.

Persecution of Japanese-Americans is particularly notorious but not unique. There was less extensive discrimination against German-Americans during both World War I and World War II and against Italian-Americans in the latter conflict. During the Civil War, bloody riots against the military draft in the North included beatings and murders of African-Americans.

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