In general, writing about politics is a bad idea.
Wait, scratch that: writing about politics in a forum where lots of other people will read it is a bad idea. So I’ll continue.
But first, a disclaimer: I hate politics. That’s a funny thing for a former political science major to say, I know, but I mean it. After spending the four most formative years of my adolescence sitting in classrooms learning about Washington’s committees, subcommittees, whips and weasels, the promised land of graduate school has offered a welcome respite from the sort of tug of war approach to political discourse that most of my classmates engaged in. It’s not that I didn’t like my classmates as humans (for the most part), but I found it pretty sad that they fell so easily into the common trap of treating politics like a baseball game: I root for my team, you root for yours, and we’ll see who can hit the ball farthest when it’s my turn to bat.
Maybe this is the cynic in me, but it seems like this rah-rah competition is not the most efficient way to govern. After all – and I know a lot of people would disagree vehemently with this assessment – most politicians are pretty similar. Sure, they might have widely different priorities in terms of particular issues. But the end of the day, most politicians are slaves to the ballot box and, above all, human.
Given my understanding of the way this country works, I do as any normal person who’s upset with the system would do: I treat politics as the biggest, most convoluted reality television show ever conceived. Catty congresswomen, old white bigwigs who can’t keep their junk in their pants, an insane billionaire looking to hijack the most powerful office in the world – America has it all.
So, you’ll forgive me if I perceive people who are staunch supporters of either side as the equivalent of Team Snookie. The way the electorate clings to one party line or the other without considering the strengths and weaknesses of other opinions seems pretty silly to me. In school, kids learn about the ever-important “marketplace of ideas.” This term no longer applies to American political discourse, however. Now, political junkies do their idea shopping at one of two strip malls on opposite sides of town. Very impractical.
Which leads me to the news du jour: the recent assassination of international terrorist and all-around bad guy, Osama bin Laden.
Like most Americans, I waited with bated breath for Barack Obama’s announcement in the late hours of May 1. And like most Americans, I was thrilled when the announcement came. But what struck me about the news was not the event itself, nor the reaction to the event, but the secondary reaction to America’s initial reaction to the event.
In the hours and days since a gaggle of George Washington University students – college kids, mind you – triumphantly gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue, it has become chic for bloggers, tweeters, and serious media people to reflect back upon that night’s scenes of euphoria with reserved derision. To cheer the murder of another human, they reason, is uncouth. Some have even suggested that when folks lit off firecrackers in front of the executive mansion, a bit of American credibility was lost in the eyes of the world.
Ah, just what Americans love: other people telling them how they should feel.
I think much of this backlash to the initial jubilation can be attributed to the Internet. Before social media, people actually had to – gasp! – talk to other people. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I find that I’m moderately reserved when talking to others: if possible, I try to avoid potentially divisive political discussions because, sadly, many people judge others for their opinions. To disagree with this generation of cable-fed political know-it-alls could be detrimental to one’s social life.
Luckily, the invention of social media has allowed us to compose updates that touch on topics we wouldn’t usually pursue in the course of an old fashioned conversation. After the initial reaction to the news died down on May 2, I was barraged with countless tweets, status updates, blog posts, editorials, and columns decrying the initial American response of elation as detrimental to the ideals of peace and harmony.
The simple fact is that as long as humans have free will, fish swim in the ocean, and there is an episode of To Catch A Predator airing on some station deep in the recesses of my 2,000 cable channels, there will not be peace in the world. And to operate under the illusion that America has a responsibility to promote such peace by not doing whatever is necessary to rid the world of crazy people like bin Laden is naive and childish.
True, some would concede: the elimination of Osama was necessary, but the American reaction to the news wasn’t proper. Instead of engaging in a solemn period of reflection, America did what it does best: it reverted into a country of screaming, passionate homers.
Of course they did! And that was probably the best thing about that entire evening. Americans rarely agree about anything. Usually, the only times Americans band together in unity is in the aftermath of great turmoil or great success. Sadly, the former seems to occur much more often than the latter.
On this night, something was different. Gone was the baseball game mentality between folks at different ends of the political spectrum. Gone were the cheers and jeers amongst the electorate of government officials. Sure, there were people in front of the White House with Bush-Cheney and Obama-Biden campaign signs that likely wouldn’t agree on much, but everyone could agree on one thing: this was great news.
I’ll admit that America’s jubilant reaction to the news might rally anti-American sentiment abroad, sure. But perhaps it was worth it. After all, what doesn’t seem to provoke those who hate America? The War on Terror hasn’t provided much good news around which most Americans could rally in a long time, but Osama bin Laden’s extermination was a welcome diversion from the silly two-sided battle Americans fight every day.
The fact of the matter is simple: this inning, everybody won. Enjoy it, because it probably won’t happen again for some time.comment (1)