Saturday, May 14, 2011

Your Life Is My News

commentary on Bin-Laden's death

So, Bin-Laden is dead. Pretty big news turned into four or five words.

And his name is now spelled “Usama.” Ok. Too bad I never got to use it while he was alive.

In our 24 hour news cycle, it seems like this happened months ago. We metabolize news so quickly now, it's hard to keep an eye on how long ago things happened. The Royal Wedding, earthquake in Japan, shooting in Arizona-- there is no shortage of significant but easily neglected events.

But Bin-Laden's death seems different than so many of these countless stories that just go by.  Take the Bin-Laden victory parties of a couple of weeks ago.

Last week, a student at Boston College sent me a video of himself and fellow students celebrating the night the President announced that Bin-Laden was dead.

It's quite a scene. The first couple of minutes are frantic, hand-held shakiness of kids running through what must be BC's campus, late at night. It's impossible to watch without getting a little woozy. The last couple of minutes of the video are easier to watch because the video is more stable, but harder to watch, too, because of the content.

Hundreds of college kids, mostly white males, are standing on tables and pajamas on tables in a large room of the school library. It's around midnight and these kids are going crazy. They are yelling and singing, waving American flags. It sounds like a party after a big sporting event and the kids look incredibly elated and wildly happy. They are singing together. They begin with the classic “na na na, goodbye” chant but, at some point, they segue into The Star Spangled Banner.

I had mixed feelings watching it. It was great to see so many college kids energized by something so purely political and patriotic. I'm used to seeing kids roll their eyes when saying the Pledge of Allegiance, so it was nice to see kids genuinely show some American pride. But it was also kind of scary. This wasn't just a celebration of America. This wasn't outside the White House. This looked a lot like a bunch of kids who had something to focus all their untapped energy on. And the thing they were focused on was the sweetness of revenge.

I thought to myself, “is it ok if they celebrate revenge?”

Then another thought occurred to me.

I wonder if American kids of a certain age aren't the most affected by this news (apart from those who were directly affected by the tragedy that day). Those who were from 2nd or 3rd grade to 12th grade in September of 2001 must've had a unique perspective on the attacks on 9/11. They were kids grappling with the first major attack on the American homeland in the history of our country. Bin-Laden wasn't just a bad guy. He was the WORST guy, the opposite of Santa, the scariest dude in the world. His death is a paradigm shifting, world-remaking event for these kids. It's a huge deal.

Big enough to dance on a table, I'd say.

The death of Bin-Laden is a strange news event because it affects so many people in such different ways. For most, it's a big deal for a few days. But for few, it's a turning point, a milestone, an incredibly significant event.

But, then again, it's not really all that strange.

Every news story is this way. Turn on the news tonight or skim your favorite news website and there it will be: an astonishingly personal event for few and a "just another headline" for everyone else.

And that's what makes all news so complicated, so fragile, and so valuable.

Every life has a story. Every story has a life.

1 comment:

  1. Michael,

    I concur but disagree. If you look at the big picture, there is more than revenge (and your story is more than about revenge).

    The right wing families who followed the story love the results. Bush passed the torch and the demon is dead. Families whose kids were part of the casualties either are joyous or sympathetic with the endgame. Me, I was part of that story.

    I ended up in California that week and thought the terrorism was a hoax. I woke up in Santa Barbara with a call from my colleague in DC telling me we were under attack. 3 hrs behind and the person I was speaking with (think Dara from Beavis and Butthead)told me the details and to turn on CNN. My brother, military personnel just started at the Pentagon and was there when the plane destroyed the outer walls - he managed to get out unharmed along with a lot of others.

    My point is, not only my brother was attacked, along with the other victims, but friends from HS were in the World Trade Center and died.

    When I woke up the morning of the news (Bin Laden's Death), my wife emphatically told me "we got him, we got him, Bin Laden is dead!" I really didn't give a shit. Yeah, I was tired but guess what, who cares! This has gone on way too long. I felt good but not enough to party (hey bro, you know I like to party!).

    Woo hoo, the demon is dead but guess what. . .he infected the world and we will be continually bombarded with terror until the day we die.

    I am infatuated by the SEALS work and love what our Country can do but disturbed by the rest of the politics that continue to consume our lives...

    I guess I didn't address or add to your story but that's how it made me feel~