The 9/11 attacks led to a spate of anti-Muslim sentiment and actions, often in the name of national security. But the challenge of balancing religious freedom with public welfare dates from the country's founding.
After 9/11, many Americans feared terrorists were hiding in local Muslim communities. Then and now, minorities have been in the cross-hairs of the debate on protecting individual rights and ensuring public safety.
Some Americans responded to 9/11 with suggestions that the attacks came from within; others wanted those opinions silenced. As in 1927 and 2014, the public debated the balance between trumpeting sex, scandal and sin with protecting the community.
After 9/11, the public trusted the government's reports on its action in the war on terror. Yet whistleblowers before and since have leaked classified data they think the public has a right to know about, pitting a free press and government transparency against national security interests.
After 9/11, the government promoted national unity and labeled as unpatriotic reporters who challenged its actions. From Lincoln to Ferguson, elected officials have had to balance supporting a free press and guarding against civil unrest.
Post 9/11, in some communities, patriotism morphed into hostility against those who didn't seem to fully support the government. The country again had to balance protecting the United States from attackers with allowing citizens to express political ideas.
After 9/11, the first responders sought compensation from Congress for health problems linked to toxic conditions at Ground Zero. From the "gag rule" to gyrocopters, lawmakers and citizens have battled to steer national debates.
The 9/11 attacks highlighted the vulnerability of government buildings to terrorist attacks. Yet long before the attacks and still today, we wrestle with finding the right balance between keeping the government accessible and keeping it secure.
Families of 9/11 victims used the White House as a backdrop to bring attention to their cause. This strategy – used from suffragists to students – begs the question: How do you preserve the dignity of the White House while providing a meaningful space to ask for change?
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