On 17 September, 31 innocent people were injured in an attack on 27th Street in Manhattan, New York. A makeshift bomb composed of a pressure cooker and explosive devices was left exposed on a street corner in Chelsea, Manhattan. This bomb proceeded to blow up, creating fear, terror, and chaos amongst the stunned New Yorkers. Afghanistan-born American Ahmad Khan Rahami was charged for the planning and execution of this bombing on 21 September. Rahami was also charged with making and attempting to detonate bombs at the New Jersey train station in his hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
This event, as tragic and horrific as it is, is not a novelty or a surprise for the American people. Americans have become accustomed to subsisting in an atmosphere cauterised by fear and terror in recent years. Murders, shoot-outs, and bombings have become daily headlines in American newspapers and political discussions. Every attack seems to carry political weight and influence.
When a tragedy or act of terror occurs, politicians try to use the events to further their goals. Current US presidential nominee, Donald Trump, used these recent strikes as opportunities to push his own personal agendas and beliefs. Donald Trump spoke at a campaign rally on 19 September proposing, ‘These attacks and many others were made possible because of our extremely open immigration system, which fails to properly vet and screen the individuals or families coming into our country.’ This statement lacks logic and is misleading. To connect all acts of terror with race and immigration is a gross generalisation. Rahami is an American citizen and Trump’s statement is making brash assumptions without Rahami’s full immigration history being provided. By labelling this bombing an‘immigration related problem,’ Trump is neglecting to reference the lives of the New Yorkers injured and affected by this event. Instead of being horrified and working to create a solution to end this radical hate and resistance towards the United States, Trump proposes to build more walls and divides, creating further controversy and ostracism. Muslim refugees are not the enemy. In the past seven years, there have only been ten occasions where refugees were arrested for ‘terrorist related charges’ within the US. This is a tiny percentage considering the admitted amount of refugees in this timespan.
Hillary Clinton took a different approach to this attack. In The New York Times, openly criticising Trump for his comments on the New York bombing calling him a, ‘recruiting sergeant for the terrorists’. Clinton is emphasising that by making general statements and blaming immigrants for attacks and lives taken through acts of fear in the United States, Trump is fuelling the recruitment logic of terrorist groups. American foreign policy does not need more divisions and separation. It needs to create unions and agreements to promote peace and security.
Calling out refugees and immigrants (specifically those with Muslim and Arab backgrounds) as terrorists, and potential dangers adds to the stilted stereotypes and racist attitudes amongst some of the American public. In his journal, Rahami wrote, ‘You [the American government] continue your [unintelligible] slaught[er]” against the mujahedeen, or holy warriors, be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham (Syria), Palestine.’ Worryingly similar, Omar Mateen, responsible for shooting at Pulse Night Club, had the exact same mind-set and message; he also wanted it known he was dying for the Islamic State, in retaliation to the US. This message should not be ignored, but fixed. The next leader of the United States should be someone who will work to be inclusive, appreciate differences, and help change mind sets, not inflame hatred and encourage exclusion.
While attacks such as the New York bombings can wash away all sparks of hope and security for the future, the American people have shown hope and resilience. As soon as the bomb on 27th Street detonated, a text alert was sent to all residents in the New York area. All of New York bonded as one in the fight to find who was responsible for this act of terror. This small connection sinks deeper, showing that Americans as one, despite colour, ethnicity, or religious beliefs, can work together to protect their nation.
Fear, insecurity, and panic should not be the norm in American society. More than ever, the American people need strength, security, and cohesiveness. In order to combat these acts of terror, racist attitudes, and atmosphere of fear, change is needed. When thinking politically, Americans must choose wisely who they select to represent their country. America needs a leader who will build bridges, not walls. America needs someone who will fight to make sure all citizens are treated equally despite their ethnic background or religious beliefs – the very foundation America was built on. America needs a leader who will listen and understand past traumas, to better prevent future acts of terrorism so countless more lives are not lost. America can no longer sit passively and live in fear and oblivion. A stance needs to be taken to correct the hatred and anger surrounding America’s name. The resurgence of pride and the security to be an American is within reach.