More than 11 years after 9/11, it’s deja vu for America. Acity in lockdown, cowered down people, businesses closed, barricades and yellow police tape strung on sidewalks on swathes of streets, spread across miles where acts of terrorism and violence have left at least five people dead till now, and scores injured, with an armed assailant still on the loose, since this past Monday beginning with the Boston Marathon bombings.
Rumours have swirled, pointed comments made about the supposed identity of the two assailants, who now in the past two hours we know grew up in Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union, according to an uncle of the two suspects.
Two immigrants from Morocco, Yassine Zaimi and Salaheddin Barhoum, were earlier identified as the two suspects wanted in the bombings. They had to plead their innocence on Facebook to be exonerated. An Indian American student, Sunil Tripathi, missing from Brown
University since last month, was also placed as a potential suspect. He’s still missing. Several broadcasts and publications have been speculating that the suspects were “dark-skinned”. Not black. Not white.
Dark-skinned, as in from the subcontinent or of Middle Eastern origin. More than 11 years ago, it was the same in New York City after the 9/11 attacks, as a city of bewildered, shocked people grieved, huddled in homes and bars, and cried openly. Hate and resentment swirled outside for anybody who looked remotely close to being an Arab.
America is at crossroads again. Maybe the resentment against Muslims, which had abated, will continue; detentions and security levels at airports will increase, intense surveillance against potential suspects will trickle down to innocent families and communities around the country. After two exorbitantly expensive wars, that in part brought America down to its knees financially, there will again be a call for increased expenditure on security, to bolster arms and weapons.
But unlike 11 years ago, America today has much more to lose in the wake of the terror enacted by the two men who came to Boston as immigrants about eight years ago, attended high school in Massachusetts. The America of today had healed from the wounds of those few days of havoc in September of 2001. The stock market is robust, the economy is shaping up, the country was trying to put the memory of two wars behind, bringing the troops back home.
The focus of late has been on new thoughts and ideas. The focus had also turned to gun control after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings. The measure failed in the Senate this week,including legislation that would have barred illegal gun trafficking, and made it harder for people to register guns.
That measure now will come back to haunt those who opposed it; there will be a renewed fight on Capitol Hill, the bitterness and divide between the Democrats and the Republicans, who scuttled the measure, will increase. The biggest news that had consumed the nation in the last couple of weeks was immigration reforms.
It seems like a bad joke now, given the timing, with fingers already pointing to the two terrorists from Kyrgyzstan — who had come to America as immigrants. What are the chances of more family reunification visas being doled out, millions of new immigrants coming in soon? There’s already a sinking feeling inside their hearts for many of the immigrants who were hoping for a quick solution to the immigration quagmire that had people stuck in limbo for decades.
But these two alleged terrorists may have scuttled it before it even begins. The focus, like 11 years ago, is now going to be on why immigrants should be admitted to this country to live legally, without knowing who they are. It’s a mess, all over again.
The writer is editor-in-chief, The American Bazaar