It seems the rest of the Generation Y crew has weighed in on this, so I figured I’d put in my two cents.
My experience is more like Michael’s than Kathleen’s. Islamist terrorism was a real issue in the world grew up in. It was something I was aware of and thought about. I remember the first attack on the World Trade Center. I remember some of the First Intifada. I remember the Oklahoma City bombing, and the fact that most initially assumed it was Islamist terrorism.
In 1999 or 2000, I wrote a high school paper on the threat of Islamist terrorism. I specifically mentioned bin Laden and the possibility that Al-Qaeda might attack large buildings, damns, or power plants.
I remember reading about issues of Islam and the West, and about approaches to fighting terrorism. I recall first reading Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” and Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History” for that paper, as well as Benjamin Netanyahu’s first book on fighting terrorism.
It may be, however, that my focus on terrorism and my belief in a generally hostile world comes from being raised in a Jewish, very Israel-concerned household. My experience was not typical. After 9/11, Bill Bennet, Phyllis Chesler, Marty Peretz, and others spoke some version of “We Are All Israelis Now.” In the sense they meant, some of us already were.