Sept 11th: Reflections on a Changed America

This is a video of a nearly two-hour panel discussion entitled, "September 11th: Reflections on a Changed America." Taped at the Chicago Historical Society shortly after the September 11th attacks, a group of academics, historians, and journalists discuss the after effects of the attacks.

00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with color bars and tone. There is a title screen and countdown that rolls before the piece begins.

01:09Copy video clip URL An intro segment for the piece rolls.

01:53Copy video clip URL Fade into a shot of Lonnie Bunch of the Chicago Historical Society. Bunch stands at a podium in the front of the room and calls for a moment of silence for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. The cameras pan the entire room to reveal a packed house for the program.

03:00Copy video clip URL Bunch gives a brief introduction and explains why this program had come to fruition. Bunch then introduces Katherine Lauderdale, Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnership in General Counsel at WTTW. Lauderdale speaks briefly about the work of Network Chicago and its involvement with the 9/11 discussion panel. Bunch then takes the podium once again and thanks his staff for their hard work in putting the program together. He then begins to talk about his own personal experience with 9/11 and recalls getting an alarming call from his daughter, who was a freshman in college at the time, on the day of September 11th. “In a way, the deadly events of September 11th have left us all struggling to find ways to come to grips with the tragedy that is so enormous, and so sudden. We have all spent hours and days, talking about, contemplating that day. And we are all struggling to find meaning, to understand just how much our world has changed, and find ways to give voice to our sorrow, and to our rage.” Bunch speaks of the importance of the program and eventually goes on to introduce television and print journalist, Carol Marin, who is moderating the discussion.

08:55Copy video clip URL Marin takes a seat on the stage next to Bunch and expresses her enthusiasm for being back in Chicago. She then begins to introduce the various people involved in the discussion panel. Panel members include, Rich Samuels of Network Chicago; Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times; M. Cherif Bassiouni, Professor of Law at DePaul University; Rev. Erwin Winstor of Moody Church; Colleen Connell, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois; and oral historian Studs Terkel. Carol Marin asks the panel to talk about how America has changed since September 11th. Bassiouni is the first to answer. He speaks of America’s loss of innocence and comfort. He states that America has been confronted with a different reality that the country has to adjust to. He emphasizes the need to make those adjustments, but to not let those changes be driven by too much pessimism.

15:00Copy video clip URL Lutzer then begins to talk about the notion of a “national sense of uncertainty.” “I think that there is on the part of people, a sense that we have been violated and because of that, uncertainty continues.” He goes on to state that the attacks have changed all of our perspectives, specifically on death. Marin interjects briefly, then asks Mitchell about her experiences with the event. Mitchell recalls her thoughts on that day and how it had affected her. She talks about the segregation within the country and how 9/11 had seemed to bring everyone together. “It was just strange that it took such a horrendous event for me to feel a part of the only place I’ve known. And you know, I had a certain pride that I belonged to a country and lived in a country, was part of a country, that was willing to take this pain and try to pull together. And just felt, you know, it really changed me personally. I’m pretty sure a lot of people in their own reflection can sit back and say at that moment, their own personal view of themselves changed.”

18:53Copy video clip URL Samuels then begins to speak about the notion of vulnerability among many Americans and the need to avoid an obsession with that vulnerability. “One of things we know about human history is that we are genetically able to deal with this vulnerability and to surmount it because of our intellect, our will, and hopefully our common sense.” Connell then speaks about America’s response to 9/11 and the importance of not stereotyping and lashing out against people of a specific nationality. She states that we have learned a lesson from  the WWII internment  of much of the Japanese population in the U.S.

22:40Copy video clip URL Marin then asks Terkel about his experiences with the 9/11 attacks. Terkel begins to read from his appointment book. On the day of September 11th, Terkel and his son Daniel had a meeting with a lawyer at a downtown Chicago office. Terkel describes the office, located on the fifty-fifth floor of the building, as completely deserted. Terkel talks about the fact that America had never been bombed or invaded. He goes on to quote Einstein by saying, “Ever since the atom was split, everything in the world has changed irrevocably except one thing: the way we think. We have to think anew. Third world, second world … we are the one world. We’re no longer a fortress. We’re part of that other world.” Terkel then very strongly and eloquently states, “I’ll end with this dissertation. During the league of nations meeting one of the diplomats said, ‘Peace is indivisible.’ Well so is terror. It is indivisible once it starts. And the way to stop it naturally is to take Einstein’s advice: to think anew. That was the dream he had.” The audience gives Terkel a good round of applause as he finishes.

27:55Copy video clip URL Marin explains to the audience how the rest of the program will progress. She then asks Bassiouni about the amount of information we know about the attacks and whether or not that leads us to knowing who the actual perpetrators are so we can retaliate accordingly. Bassiouni first begins by saying that we do not truly know enough information about the perpetrators yet. Marin interjects and asks Bassiouni whether Osama Bin Laden played a role in the attacks. Bassiouni again states that we do not know for sure, however, he refers to Bin Laden as the “designated villain of the operation.” Mousouni continues to speculate about Bin Laden’s involvement with 9/11. He goes on to talk about the possible Muslim influence in the attacks. Marin then asks Lutzer about the idea that religious and cultural differences are creating much conflict in the world. Lutzer answers by talking about the importance of conducting our nation’s response to the tragedy without vengeance and prejudice. He emphasizes the importance of not using religion as an excuse for this conflict.

33:21Copy video clip URL Marin then asks Mitchell if a civil society can survive in a time of war. Mitchell explains that some of those in our society will handle the conflict uncivilly. “But there will always be a segment of society who are just going to engage in the kind of behavior that we’re afraid of, that we say that we’re afraid of: the stereotyping, the scapegoating, because we have to have an enemy. And that’s what frightens me.” She goes on to state that her biggest frustration about the 9/11 attacks is the fact that the U.S. didn’t know about before it had happened. “Why didn’t we know it before? All of these tax dollars, all of the money that we spend, all of this talk, talk, talk, all these politicians that get up and talk. Why were we left so naked and so vulnerable? I just have never gotten any answers for that.” She continues by talking about the possibility of prejudice rearing its ugly head in society, more than it already has, as the conflict goes on.

36:03Copy video clip URL Marin then asks Rich Samuels if he feels constrained as a journalist in this time of conflict. Samuels immediately states that he does not feel any constraint and goes on to talk about whether the acts of September 11th were an act of war or a crime. He and Marin begin to discuss the politics behind the conflict. Marin then asks Connell about the possibility of losing some of our personal freedoms because of the conflict. Connell talks about the need to hold onto the rights to information and to speak about the situation. She and Marin discuss the government’s role in the possible suspension of certain freedoms during turbulent times. Marin then asks Terkel about a few comments Terkel had made about America being burdened with some for the blame for these attacks. Terkel delves in to why the 9/11 attacks had taken place. He brings up the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein. He states that the reason Hussein has been so popular with his people in the region since the war was because of some of America’s actions in the Gulf War, specifically bombing civilians and things of that nature. He calls this a “form of terrorism” as well. Marin then interjects and cites an article from The Economist that states that some of America’s actions in war settings have been ill-conceived but weighs in on the importance of all of the good things America has done as well. Terkel then responds to the comment by saying that military intelligence is what will bring those responsible for the attacks to justice, as opposed to bombs. Terkel brings the situation into historical context by talking about some of the hypocrisies of U.S. foreign policy and states that our country is not infallible. He speaks of dissent being key in our society and emphasizes the need to question our government. Mitchell agrees with Terkel but begins to talk about the mourning that the country is going through and explains that there is a period of time when people will not want to dissent. Mitchell also talks about the fact that she would relinquish a few civil liberties to promote safety in the country. Connell then responds to Mitchell’s comments but emphasizes the fact that we can still be safe without having to violate any of our civil liberties.

51:33Copy video clip URL Marin then brings up the subject of U.S. foreign policy. Bunch then highlights the need to put this current conflict into historical context. He also cites the importance of understanding what it means to be an American in the global age. He states that he hopes for a new sense of internationalism to develop out of the attacks. Bassiouni then reacts to one of Bunch’s statements about the fact that many people don’t particularly like the U.S. Bassiouni talks about the likability of America and states that there is more of a hatred for American foreign policy than America’s people and industries. He talks about the manifestation of our current foreign policy over the past few decades. He also states that crime has become a “global manifestation” and says that terrorism is part of that manifestation. He makes a few more observations about the difference between inconvenience and prejudice.

01:02:00Copy video clip URL Audience members begin to ask questions of the panel. A woman stands up and asks the panel about the notion that everyone can become an American. She has some trouble getting her question out and sits down after explaining her thoughts to the panel. Another man stands up and makes a few comments about the positives that will come out of the aftermath of the attacks, specifically the fact that the U.S. along with ninety nine other nations will be working and striving towards peace.

01:06:05Copy video clip URL A woman stands up and asks Bassiouni about his comment that much of the world hates American foreign policy, not American citizens themselves. She asks Mousiouni why other countries wouldn’t hold American citizens responsible for their elected representatives who make that foreign policy. Mousiouni responds by talking about his looking down upon the notion of a “collective responsibility.” He goes on to talk about the repressiveness of the Iraqi regime and how we may or may not look at the Iraqi people as truly responsible for their leaders. He raises these types of questions and calls them questions of moral responsibility. He then emphasizes the need to realize that we are all part of a “spaceship earth” and that we need to develop a sense of “realistic humanism.” Marin then interjects and describes this notion as a “tall order.” She speaks of a funeral she had attended after the 9/11 attacks and the notion of forgiveness. Lutzer then talks about the fact that forgiveness has a one-sided dimension where we are able to rid ourselves of bitterness and hatred whether or not wrongdoers are asking for forgiveness. “Forgiveness is both an act and a process. You know you forgive, but that doesn’t mean that all of the emotions and all the bitterness eventually, or instantly, evaporates. But over a period of time, I believe much more freedom comes to people who choose to give up their bitternesses than those who hang on to it.”

01:12:25Copy video clip URL A man from the audience stands up and asks whether those involved in the news media believe that that media will change as a result of the 9/11 attacks. Mitchell responds with a quick, “No.” She goes on to talk about the responsibilities of the news media, specifically in times of need. She talks about the fact that much of the journalistic world has to grieve while presenting this type of information to the American people. She emphasizes the human element in their work. Marin interjects and talks about her experiences as a journalist during the Gulf War and describes the job of a journalist as a “sacred trust.”

01:15:20Copy video clip URL A man from the audience comments on the fact that many Americans pick and choose only certain aspects of foreign policy. He cites an article written about our foreign policy dealings with Israel and how that will negatively affect us. Marin briefly responds to the man’s comments.  Another man in the audience stands up and asks about other countries not necessarily hating America, but resenting the U.S. for a variety of other reasons. Marin then points out the fact that Terkel celebrates ordinary Americans but hates the way the government is run. Terkel then talks about his strong faith in the American people after the attacks. Marin then interjects and points out the inconsistency of many Americans when it comes to judgment of others. Terkel then talks about his respect and love for what he calls the “flesh and blood” Americans.

01:22:46Copy video clip URL A man from the audience comments on fundamentalist terrorism. Marin asks Bassiouni to define fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. Bassiouni states that politics hijacks parts of religion in order to achieve a certain goal. Bassiouni labels those responsible for the attacks as “Political Islamic Fundamentalism.” He goes on to describe this label in greater detail. Marin eventually comments on Bassiouni’s statements and talks about the news media and their role in providing information. Samuels responds to Marin’s comments and speaks about the limitations of the mews media. He also speaks of the negativity in the news media. Connell then talks about the lack of quality in the media coverage of the attacks. She goes into greater detail about why the coverage is currently working in this way and calls for an improvement in that field. Then there is a cut to Bassiouni talking about the lack of international coverage in the American news media and the lack of interest among many Americans about the subjects. He talks about his dealings with the news coverage of the Iran Hostage Crisis and compares it to our current coverage of the 9/11 attacks and states that “if it’s not sensationalism, it’s negativism.”

01:36:03Copy video clip URL Marin asks the panel to make some final thoughts. Lutzer talks about the importance of coming together in times like these and the positivity that can come out of that. Mitchell talks about the power of those in the public sphere and the need to steer away from sensationalism. She emphasizes the difficulty of covering the 9/11 attacks.

01:38:07Copy video clip URL A man from the audience named Sam Ozaki stands up and talks about his time spent in the Japanese concentration camps during WWII. He emphasizes the strong need not to make the same mistake in typecasting Arab-Americans during this uneasy time. Bunch responds to Ozaki’s comments and talks about the need for skepticism and questioning in society and the importance of treating everyone in this country equally and fairly. Samuels then talks about the importance of the press and the need for all Americans to celebrate diversity during this time. Connell then gives her thoughts on the value of individual and human rights and the disservice in compromising civil rights and civil liberties during times like these. Terkel then closes by eloquently talking about America’s potential for again becoming the country that everyone in the world looks up to and strives to be like. He ends by quoting Dwight D. Eisenhower’s concept of the Military Industrial Complex and emphasizing the need to once again think anew. Marin then closes out the night and thanks all who were involved with the evening’s festivities.

01:46:36Copy video clip URL A few credits begin to roll.

01:47:46Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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