It’s Still Us Against Them…And They’re Winning

Crowds gathered last night outside of the White House and the former site of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in jubilation, echoing other famous military-based fetes throughout our history.  I’m sure people of an older generation saw the photos in their newspaper today (cause god knows they weren’t awake or on twitter late last night to get the news as it happened) and were reminded of V-J Day, when throngs of war-weary Americans took to Times Square to celebrate victory over the Japanese and the conclusion to World War II.  Brian Williams saw all of the kids flooding college campuses across the nation as an inverted callback to the anti-war protests against involvement in Vietnam during the 60s and 70s.  To me, the footage of all those young kids in large groups reminded me of baseball.

My freshman year at Boston University coincided with the first Red Sox World Series victory in 86 years.  But before they slayed that historical demon, they first had to get past their hated rivals–my favorite team–the New York Yankees.  The Sox did so in grand, historic fashion, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win four straight games, take the seven game series, and head to an eventual World Series win.  For many kids–a good number from the New England area–this was a huge, epic event in their lives, one their grandparents had waited their entire lives to see.  They took to Kenmore Square, a busy intersection just outside Fenway Park, to celebrate en mass.

But for a good deal of others, it was merely an excuse to go outside and riot.  And yes, the key term was “riot.”  Upon returning (I did not go out; I was in mourning) my friends, both fans of the Sox and of destruction, regaled me of stories of people breaking glass everywhere, climbing street lamps and falling onto heaps of people, and how one tear gas capsule actually hit one of them in the foot!  All of this was captured on their digital cameras, a digital replica of their involvement in the Great Riots that they could proudly show off to their grandchildren some decades after they showed off on facebook.

A similar scene occurred last night as scores of college kids emptied out of their dorms to congregate outside the White House and near Ground Zero, looking to quite literally dance on the man’s grave. It was a striking visual, all of those people out there celebrating the death of another, mirroring the footage of people from an Arab country that I cannot for the life of me remember (but, for these purposes, does not exactly matter) celebrating the attacks on 9/11 by dancing in the streets.  It was one of those indelible images that, like the second tower getting hit in profile or the stanchion for one of the towers barely left standing, that sticks in my craw to this very day.  Thinking about it right now gets me raw all over again.

In years since, the veracity of that specific piece of footage has been challenged, but someone was happy that America was attacked.  And it wasn’t because they hate our democracy or our constitution or our freedom but specifically they hate our culture; our sex-crazed, binge-drinking, Jersey Shore-loving, godless culture.  And we’re not content to leave that culture, with our Coca-Colas and sinful delights and all, on our side of the world.  No, we’re a monolithic social and political machine that batters down all other cultures through military or financial measures to push these edicts of debauchery-as-freedom on others regardless of how they feel about it.  We mistook Osama declaring war on “America” as our country.  Instead, he called for a jihad on all that America stands for culturally: a godless cesspool who hold nothing sacred.

Our reactions last night did little to eschew this idea to his followers.

Around two o’clock AM, MSNBC threw to a live remote at Ground Zero, the hallowed area that has the blood of  nearly 3,000 people, from civilians to firefighters, EMTs, and police officers who died while fulfilling their civic duty.  And on that ground had gathered a large group of people, mostly college aged, to congregate at the site of the attacks and celebrate the death of the man responsible.  Wonderfully apropos.  The reporter decided that it was a good time to interview some of the revelers (and that is a very apt term for this gaggle of girls).

The video can be found here, but I’ll describe.  The shot goes live as people behind the reporter scream.  He tries to explain the atmosphere which is shockingly ebullient considering the location.  As he tries to find the proper words to describe what’s going on, he stumbles out “it’s really a very…an unusual night that’s…that’s that’s very bizarre for Ground Zero.”  He turns to address the crowd, asking, “you’re all students, right?” and they, in unison, cheer “YEEEAAAAHHHH!” as if they were tweens waiting outside a Justin Bieber concert.  As he turns to interview one specific girl, the crowd cheers and “WHOOOOOOs” their little hearts out. He turns to one girl, adorned in a Pace University sweatshirt (they have to love that), as various others try to crowd the shot.

The girl is asked, “how do you feel about what’s happened here?” evidently making light of the actions at Ground Zero, not about Osama bin Laden’s death.  But no matter.  With her arms gesticulating up and down (a cell phone in her right hand, no doubt warning friends and family members to turn on MSNBC in 3…2…1…) she responds, “I feel GREAT right now!” sounding like many a drunken college girl I’ve encountered on any given weekend, let alone early Monday morning during finals week.  Someone bum rushes the mic and offers, “America needs this!” as the reporter asks a simple follow up of, “Why [do you feel great right now]?”  She gives a perplexed look, as she somehow did not see this obvious follow-up question coming, and with her arms all akimbo, says, “…It’s AMERICA!  It’s time to party right now!  He’s DEEEEEAD!” before lifting her arms and letting loose with yet another “WHOOOO!!!” as the crowd joins in.

The display actively disgusted me, and here I am a kid from New Jersey who is sympathetic to the American cause.  One can only imagine how clips like those, how newspaper headlines like this, how giddy, rapturous dance songs like this one, or reactions to being among the revelers like this wearing shirts like this will be digested across the world, specifically amongst those most in line with bin Laden’s perverse teachings and views.  This goes beyond fodder; it actually confirms to them that they’re right.  If we can’t treat Ground Zero like the hallowed ground it is, what the hell can we respect?

*     *     *

Last night was a celebration, and for the life of me, I can’t think what it was for.  It seemed like we were at a victory parade, as if killing one prominent member of one specific terror group that still has thousands upon thousands of active members wins the “war on terror.”  It seemed like justice had been served, but the towers are still gone and families are still torn asunder.  It seemed like vanquishing a boogieman, as Obama claims “that the world is a safer place,” even though I’m infinitely more scared now than I did 18 hours ago, hell, then in the last couple of years combined.   It seemed like a triumph, that we had somehow drawn even, the scoreboard reading US 1 – 1 TER, as if the cycle won’t start anew.

But that score does not matter compared to other numbers, like the roughly 3,000 people who perished in the attacks on September 11th.  1,500 US service men and women have been killed overseas fighting to avenge those deaths and in doing so have taken the lives of some 30,000 Afghanis, a mix of innocents, maniacs, women, and children.  After last night’s events, add four more men and one women to the count.  Oh, and the war drum to go into Pakistan was being beaten as of 2 AM last night, as their government was harboring known terrorists, much like the Taliban were in Afghanistan.  Not to mention the potential world-wide response to bin Laden’s death.

Now I know what we’re celebrating: a larger pile of bodies.

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Charlie’s #winning, We’re Losing

Malcolm Gladwell’s novel Blink proposes that we don’t nearly give our gut instinct the proper amount of credit.  After seeing something over and over again our brains become conditioned to almost instantaneously figure out a conclusion.  This explains why seasoned baseball fans stay in their seats while others jump up at the sight of a fly ball; they know what a home run ball looks like right off the bat, why drivers can tell which cars are angling to cut them off, and why we watch movies and criticize computer-generated imagery as being fake, because we have a lifetime of experience of seeing things that are real.  In nanoseconds, we can suss out real versus fake, danger versus safety.

But if that’s the case, and we are a consumer base that has watched an incredible amount of “reality” television, how can we not tell what’s real or what’s fake?  Why can’t we differentiate between “Charlie Sheen,”  the wacky character and Charlie Sheen, the broken-down addict?

Continue reading “Charlie’s #winning, We’re Losing”

NEW LIFE?!?

I’m not one for hyperbole.  Rarely does the hype ever match the importance of the issue at hand, and that gap gets wider every day.  However, there are always exceptions, and the news from yesterday certainly hits that mark.  NASA was hangin’ around a lake in California and, ho-hum, found an entirely new species of life unlike anything that we’ve ever seen before.  No big deal or anything.  GFAJ-1 is an arsenic-based lifeform, which should strike you as odd, former high school science students, since such a thing doesn’t exist in our plain of existence.  I’m not going to sit here and act like I really know what’s going on, so go seewhat smart people have to say about it at Gizmodo or Science mag or those NASA folks.

Considering that the very range for what we consider life has been completely altered from this point forward, one would assume that it would be the biggest story imaginable.  IT’S CHANGED THE WAY WE HAVE VIEWED LIFE FOREVER!!!  Buuut not as big as LeBron in Cleveland.  Or Qatar getting the World Cup in 2022.  Or being stuck in snow for a day.  But y’know, it’s easily the 7th most important thing…below everything else….

Now whether or not it’s more newsworthy than Britney Spears tweets?  That’s debatable.

Analyzing CNN

Finding the news isn’t getting any easier for us.  As our pathways to information get broader every day, our inability to decipher what’s real and what’s fake or what’s fact and what’s opinion grows at the same rate.  It’s quite the paradox:  our reach has never been wider and our intelligence has never been questioned more.  We get pandered to, yelled at, and told how to think, what to think, and when to think it.  This movement is exacerbated–possibly caused exclusively by–the cable news networks, a group of channels who use the term “news” as a placard to bring you in, but rarely produce on that promise.

I glean this knowledge from experience.  This past Tuesday, I took the plunge and devoted literally half a day towards watching CNN’s coverage of the day’s news and events.  The Cable News Network is the network of record, the bastardized New York Times of cable news, and, in the interest of objectivity, my network of choice when I follow big news events.  I’m not proud of this fact.  After mainlining the stuff like I was Bubbles on The Wire, let me tell you, I’m damn near ashamed of this fact.  Continue reading “Analyzing CNN”

Losing My Sanity (And Watching 12 Hours Of CNN)

So the day has finally come.  Buoyed by my trip to DC for the Stewart/Colbert rally and a challenge (of sorts) from On The DL Podcast‘s (among other places) Dan Levy, I’m about to watch twelve straight hours of CNN.  Why?  Because I love news.  Well, that combined by with how little I enjoy 24 hours news.  It’s a sensationalist trap of fear tactics and sweeping camera pans, and I’d love to see just how deep that hole is that CNN has put itself in.

Throughout the day, I’ll update this post on my status and with some short quips about the shows, the hosts, etc. with an eye to do a fully-damning report tomorrow on my entire experience.  I have two giant white boards with which to work on and keep track of numbers – and holy hell are there going to be a lot of numbers.  Call me a news sabremetrician.  I’ll essentially be live blogging 24 hours news…which, if done in all seriousness, might be the worst idea ever.  So I’ll try to keep it light.  For example, did you know Wolf Blitzer’s beard takes up 10% of his total body mass? Continue reading “Losing My Sanity (And Watching 12 Hours Of CNN)”

W’s Memoirs

There has been a lot of press surrounding the recent publishing of former president George W. Bush’s memoirs, entitled “Decision Points.”  But while we have heard a lot about his heartache as caused by being pegged as a racist by Kanye West, not much about the memoir itself has been discussed.  With that in mind, I contacted the publisher and inquired if I could post some excerpts for my audience.  They obliged, even allowing me to put up full chapters.  Which isn’t too difficult, as the entire thing is a picture book. Continue reading “W’s Memoirs”

The Pursuit Of “Meaning”

There are tons and tons of posts and stories and columns all trying to figure out what the point of this whole thing was.  The rally was never announced as one thing, leading to endless debate on what it might be, could be, should be.  It was one of those situations where we could not simply let the thing stand on its own.  Before the show was over people were already griping about what didn’t happen.  My friend Rachel thinks it was a missed opportunity, that they should have named names, drag to the carpet those who rant on the right, spewing forth with hate speech and vile propaganda.  They didn’t call out the Rightist lunatics who drum up this hate speech, drag them to the carpet and poo-poo them, pointing their righteous fingers and saying how WRONG they are.   But why?  What venue is that suitable for?  More importantly, how is that saneContinue reading “The Pursuit Of “Meaning””