The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid
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After the events of 9/11, both Erica and America are noticeably overwhelmed by a wave of intense nostalgia. Through its actions following the destruction of the Twin Towers, what exactly does America hope to regain and what exactly did it lose in the first place?

The nostalgia that the American people experience is one in which they seek to reclaim their perception of security and confidence following the attacks of September 11. However, this state of mind is a facade or a temporary condition that does not provide any significant benefit beyond its initial comfort. It is not a realistic approach to better dealing with reality because it ignores how much more vulnerable the nation has become.

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The original question had to be edited down.  In Changez's mind,  the nostalgia that America experiences is one in which confidence and security are sought to replace the insecurity and lack of confidence that resulted from the attacks of September 11.  In the narrative, Changez's perception was that the attacks of September 11 revealed a great deal of insecurity and doubt in the American psyche.  There was a fundamental shock that such a horrific event  could happen to America.  This shock revealed an insecurity and lack of control about a new world in which America was susceptible as any other nation to destruction and death.  Changez perceives America to be a nation that could not effectively deal with such a reality.  

In its reversion to nostalgia about its position in the world during the Second World War, America retreated to a position of strength in its own mind.  This condition was diametrically opposed to the position that it was experiencing in the wake of the September 11 attacks.  Like Erica, nostalgia becomes the tool through which the pain and uncertainty of the present can be embraced.  Traveling back to another period of time where happiness was evident becomes opiate and tonic that enables the pain of now to be better endured.   In such a reversion, strength is perceived even though more weakness is demonstrated.

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