I am old enough to remember way back to 1979 when the Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Iran and started what would be the 444 day hostage crisis. I was a little bit naive at that time. Naive and uninformed.
And I had zero context in which to view the hostage crisis. As far as I knew we, the United States, were minding our own business when suddenly, out of the blue, some evil people who hate us for no reason decided to attack us and harm us.
My response was to become a strident attacker of all things Iran. Carter had botched the rescue mission. But then Reagan was elected and I thought his tough talk and ass-kicking was what the world needed to restore justice and fight these evil people.
It wasn’t until about ten years after the Iranian Revolution when I was having a discussion about the middle east with someone (Who I viewed at the time as a peace-nik, tree-hugging, useless hippy). I said something about the attack coming out of the blue and they hated us because we were so great, and they responded by saying something like “they hate us for Operation Ajax”.
I looked at them as if they had 40 heads. I had no idea what they were talking about.
I then went to the library and started looking for information about operation Ajax. The short of it was that in 1953, the CIA overthrew the government of Iran and installed a dictator, the Shah. The shah was a brutal dictator and tortured and killed tens of thousands of Iranians so he could keep himself in power. The US did everything it could to keep the shah in power for decades. And it wasn’t until 1979 that the Iranian people were finally able to overthrow that brutal dicator.
It was at that point, I had to admit that if I had been born in Iran and lived through that, I would have supported the revolution.
The Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979 had made me hate Iran. And it wasn’t until 10 years after that event that I got the context that, had I been born into their shoes, I would have hated the Shah and hated the US for keeping him in power for a quarter of a century.
It was probably another ten years after that realization that I was finally able to sort things out to my satisfaction, and understand all the events in the larger context of history.
1979 -> The event
1989 -> Learn I had been looking at the event with no context
1999 -> learn at least a minimal level of history about the event to understand it all.
The 9/11 attacks are this generations “event”. Today is the ten year anniversary after those attacks. And I just wonder if today’s generation is now starting to go through some realizations that their original view of the event was a view with no context.
I wonder if people who in 2001 believed President Bush when he said they hate us for our freedom, I wonder if those people today might be looking at 9/11 and realizing that Bush was lying.
It will be interesting to see how it unfolds over the next 10 years to see if we can get to a point of looking at 9/11 with enough historical context to truly understand that day.