Motor City Mitch is just as deluded as his students. For him, Islamic terrorism began on 9/11. For anyone of his generation with more awareness than a box of rocks, Islamic terrorism is a shadow under which we have been living our entire lives. Has he forgotten the Iranian hostages, the endless Libyan airplane hijackings, or that Afghanistan was a war zone since the 19th century?
Mitch thinks everything was just fine and dandy until 9/11 because he wasn't inconvenienced by having to remove his shoes at the airport. Meanwhile Iraqis and Afghanis were dying by the thousands - most of them women and civilians, victims of their own governments - and thousands of Israelis were killed or seriously injured by Islamic terrorism. But Mitch didn't have to remove his shoes at the airport, so terrorism couldn't have been a problem before 9/11, right?
Mitch concludes with the bleedingly obvious statement that the world is a worse place since 9/11, because of the Patriot Act, rather than the thousands of orphans and widows and maimed firefighters and police officers and the debilitating health problems suffered by the rescue workers.
For people like Mitch, 9/11 is just a political tool for the Republicans. For New Yorkers, it's a memory so unbearable that most of us cannot stand to watch television on September 11. All those memorial services, documentaries, and reading of the names are to comfort people like Mitch, who didn't have to witness the largest mass murder in U.S. history with their own eyes. What a deluded, insensitive asshole Mitch is. His students may be oblivious, but at least they don't pretend to be more sensitive and aware than anyone else.
I am baffled by Motor City Mitch's post. Can a person really be so blind to generation gaps? Even as a lowly, vapid undergraduate, I can understand that people 10 years older or younger than myself have different world views.
Assuming that Mitch is 10 years older than the average undergraduate, that puts him as being born in roughly 1980, and that means he was around 11 when the Soviet Union collapsed, which is the age I was when the 9/11 attacks happened. Since Mitch's childhood memories probably can't reach past Gorbachev and his teenage years were spent in the halcyon years of the 90s, he probably never saw the USSR as much of a threat. I am sure that people 10 years older than Mitch would have a totally different world view than Mitch; their teenage years included the Challenger explosion, Chernobyl, and the gas crisis. And obviously people 10 years older than that would have a different world view, illustrated elegantly by a member of the academy.
A history professor of mine once confided to us that he and his wife had struggled in their decision to have children because they were not sure they wanted to bring children into a world where they might be obliterated in a nuclear fireball. This elicited stares and an uncomfortable, confused silence, because my generation as a whole simply does not feel that nuclear war is a real threat. Nor do we believe that it is very likely that America will ever be in a war against another nation with relatively equal firepower again. Or, indeed, that we are in any real physical peril from anyone other than muggers. The majority of my generation sees 9/11 as an unfortunate incident that we have to take measures to prevent from happening again, but we see those precautions like we see flu shots--probably unnecessary and a little painful, but you should do it just in case.
If I may summarize my childhood and formative years, I would point out the following events as impacting my world view: the war in Kosovo, our involvement, and the statement by my elders that no amount of "peacekeeping" can keep apart people apart; the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the two-faced nature of politicians in general; the ridiculousness of the Y2K "crisis;" the 9/11 attacks and the surge of both nationalism and xenophobia that followed; the political use of that nationalism to begin our involvement in Afghanistan; the confusion surrounding Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and how that confusion remained up to and following the invasion; the general antipathy shown by the world towards America; and the obvious partisanship in the country. If you are ever confused about your students' world view, you should consult that list (or try Wikipedia) and think about what we take for granted and why.
If you would like to see eye to eye with your students, you should realize that while because you think your side of the fence is better, your parents think the same about you. Getting all flustered about a generation gap is useless, because the world is constantly changing and therefore the environment the next generation grows up in is constantly changing. So do what we all do with our parents: roll your eyes, keep your sense of superiority to yourself, and work around it.