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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why We All Felt Like It Mattered So Much

I know that the timing of this post is a bit awkward given the light-speed of the news cycle, but something about the killing of Osama bin Laden and the subsequent national outpouring of hysterical excitement has really not sat well with me. On the surface (and for much of the passing week) I've assumed this is because I have never had a comfy relationship with violence of any sort. Perhaps it is a hair-trigger empathy gag reflex or something, but I have never been able to glory in death or violence perpetrated on anyone, whether they had it coming or not. This is why I don't watch torture-porn, or overly violent movies. I am literally unable to not place myself in the victim's shoes. Surely this reflex has a great deal with why I felt sick to my stomach watching people celebrating in the streets and waving American flags after finding out that yet another human being had been killed in this ridiculous decades-long blood-letting.

But in the last day or so I've begun to suspect that maybe there was something else going on, in both my reaction to the death and celebration, and also the celebration itself. For those born after 1970 it would seem that there has been very little for the US to celebrate. We've witnessed a great deal of amazing things, earth-shattering things, but very few of them have been celebratory. We've seen the embarrassing defeat of our military in Vietnam, the endless parade of failed nation-building exercises, the destruction of the banking industry...twice, a space shuttle explode, a president (nearly) brought down by a blowjob, the bursting of the only employment bubble of our lifetimes, two hazy wars, 9/11, decreased job prospects, lower wages, race riots, the explosion of wealth inequality to levels never seen in the history of this country, and the destruction of trust at all levels of the social contract. Yes, we've seen a whole lot of really big, fascinating shit, but nothing to get all happy feet about.