It is extraordinary to think that it has been 10 years. A decade. In roughly a year, I will have spent more time in the post-9/11 world than in the pre-9/11 world.

I have recently realized that the events of that terrible morning in September have passed that grey line and become history, because I can now carry on a conversation with someone who was born after those attacks—someone who will live his or her entire life in a post-9/11 world.

For most of us who currently attend Bowdoin, we were still in grade school back in 2001. It may be cliché to admit it, but the attacks that occurred 10 years ago will clearly be the moment that is said to define our generation.

Like the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 9/11 is a historical moment which has transformed the world to such an extent that it has become possible, even necessary, to speak of a pre- and post-9/11 world.

Over the past decade, blanket terms like "terrorism" and "Islamo-fascism" have become commonplace in our political discourse.

Today, we are told not that the communists are the manifestation of pure evil, but rather that terrorists are the true enemies of America.

Yet we can find very little agreement on what "terrorism" actually means. The exact nature of our enemy, aside from specific groups or individuals who explicitly define themselves by their desire to eliminate Americans and their allies, remains hazy in the minds of most young Americans, myself included.

Unlike the Cold War, which was so central in the lives of our parents, the conflict that has emerged since the attacks on September 11 is not a conflict between states. Rather, it is a vague conflict against several different reactionary ideologies of Islamic terrorism.

To declare a war on terror still gives the impression that the United States is trying to fight something akin to a war on war.

Such paradoxes illustrate the shortsightedness of America's response to 9/11, where we can dust the larger problems under the rug and address the problem only by fighting against the strategy of terror.

We can only win this battle against fundamentalist reactionaries if we are prepared to take a long-run approach to stopping those forces in the world that seek to destroy us.

The killing of Osama bin Laden, for example, was perhaps the greatest short-term solution, but his death has done very little to quell the violence and the vitriol directed towards America.

Empowering women and youth in Arab nations to fight against the reactionary forces that threaten global stability can enable change.

At times, this will mean supporting such empowerment through the use of military arms.

As long as we continue to view the world through the narrow lens of short-run political gains, and use 9/11 to advance partisan agendas, the United States will not be able to meet the extraordinary challenges, be they economic, political or ideological, that our nation will face in this century. It is the long-term solutions that the history books will remember.

Only if we focus on these can we enact positive change in the world that we will inhabit for the rest of our lives.

Take a moment, on September 11, to remember sacrifices of those who perished.

Also honor the enormous sacrifices of those who lost their loved ones on that tragic day. And remember the true legacy of 9/11, the inspirational bravery exhibited by so many heroic men and women on that morning.

But let us also think about our responsibility to not only to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again, but to enact long-term changes toward a future world that is not defined by fear and terror, but instead by progress, peace and freedom.

Sean McElroy is a member of the Class of 2012.