Bombarded by terror threats, Millennials have become numb
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Like many people over the age of 18, I can remember September 11, 2001 fairly well.

I remember the teachers not telling us why we were stopping classes – they didn’t want to scare us with what they were seeing on television. And then the school called our parents to bring us home. We knew something bad had happened.

Later that day, I sat with my family and watched the Twin Towers fall on television and the breathless reactions which followed.

We were living in Hagerstown, Maryland at the time, but even as a fourth-grade kid who didn’t know much about the world at large, it was a pretty scary time. Before that, I can’t remember watching people die on television.

I can also remember where I was on the September 18, 2016 – a week past the 15th anniversary of the attacks – when a pressure-cooker bomb went off in Chelsea, injuring 29 people. I felt a news alert on my smartwatch, then checked my smartphone to read more. A group of us were at a friend’s house, having drinks and watching music videos. I mentioned something about the explosion, but we quickly went back to what we were doing. No one had been killed – no big deal.

Obviously, the Chelsea bombing is not at all comparable to 9/11, but it is interesting how little alarm this raised, especially among people my age. Have we really become so desensitized?

Have we really reached the point of accepting bombings in big cities, mass shootings in schools and bars, police murders of black men at traffic stops, and murders of police officers in retaliation as everyday realities?

When the news about the Orlando nightclub mass shooting broke, I started sharing links immediately. When I saw the video of Alton Sterling being shot and killed in Baton Rouge, where I went to college, and Philando Castille in Minnesota, I didn’t hesitate to share the videos and express my disgust. When nine Dallas police officers were killed the same week while protecting Black Lives Matter protestors, I expressed my sadness and hopes that the violence would stop. I know many of my friends and peers did the same. It’s weird to think that we all watched these videos and read these articles, but our reactions moved more along the spectrum of anger, sadness, or disappointment rather than alarm, fear, or revulsion.

There are many other places in the world that deal with more violence than the U.S. – violent crime in America has long been on the decline and we routinely ignore tragedies in Africa and Asia. But even if we knew about every tragedy around the world, would we do much more than shake our heads and share our muted reactions on social media?

For millennial Americans today, terrorism doesn’t seem quite as scary, but is instead a cause for exasperation or disappointment. After all, we watch people being killed on television or Facebook nearly every day now.

Voss is currently a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy in Ann Arbor. He graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Louisiana State University in 2014 and has worked in Democratic campaign politics and economic development. Follow him on Twitter @JacksonVoss


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