Monday, May 2, 2011

Death of a villain

     Certainly this has been an interesting day.  It has been an emotional day as well.  Osama bin Ladin, the most hated man in America if not the world is dead, we are told.  It is telling, the way information is disseminated theses days.  My wife was sitting next to me on Facebook when the word spread.  Cable news had not even picked up on the story by then.  I searched the internet immediately and was unable to get any specifics about the death.  On TV the usual rumor mill was spinning up with news anchors arriving one by one as they made there way back in to the studio having totally been caught off guard.
     I am not sure I can relate how I personally felt.  I had a sense of resolution.  I did not have any feeling of elation or feel the need to to celebrate.  I found it interesting but as with all things involving the news and government, I felt like a piece of information was being held back.
     As I watched the TV coverage the crowds began to form in front of the White House, in Times Square, and at ground zero.  Something about those crowds was unsettling to me.  I'm not sure I can put it into words exactly what it was, but let me try and explain what I mean.  Perhaps it's a sign that I have aged or matured a bit over the last decade or so, but I was more expecting to see a somber thoughtful vigil honoring the victims of that day. What I saw on television looked to me more what I would expect to see after an NCAA championship game.  There were flags and chanting and celebrations in the street.  I was watching and I was getting more uncomfortable.  Something about the scene bothered me.  Then I realized that what I saw appeared very similar to the celebrations I have seen on the news broadcast from the middle east.  Different flags, different chants in a different language, but still the jubilant almost frenzied exhilaration over the death of our collective Boogie Man.
     I noticed also that the vast majority of the crowds were young.  I didn't see many spouses or parents of the 9/11 victims out in the street chanting "USA! USA!".  I suspect they were home dealing with the news in their own way.  I would be surprised if they were in the mood to party.  Most of those in the street were probably around 10 years of age at the time of the 2001 attacks.  I wonder how much they remember from that day.  I think I was startled most of all because after 4 months of youth rising up in revolt around the middle east, I have been concerned about the danger of an uncontrolled mob stirred up by individuals with their own agenda.  What I saw last night was that, regardless if the motive was good or bad, the same thing was possible here in our country.  It is pure speculation on my part, but my guess is that most of the revelers out on the street in the middle of the night cared far less about justice being served that they did about being part of the wave of emotion and the energy of the mob.  I saw just how quickly a group of young people can be brought together and work themselves up into an emotional  surge of humanity, not over a sports team, but over the death of an enemy most of them probably know little more about than his name.  They didn't need any proof other than a Tweet and commentator on TV saying, "This just in..."
     This time, I was at least partly sympathetic to the cause.  Who cannot feel some emotional sigh of release that this monster who wreaked so much havoc on the world is now facing judgement in the next.  Mobs are fickle and dangerous though, especially so when stirred by the scent of blood and vengeance. Maybe I am wrong.  Maybe the nation needed such a release.  Maybe the pressure valve our our national psyche had to let off a little steam and life will run a little more smoothly for a bit.
     An alarm went off for me last night though.  We are still human, and humans are unpredictable en mass.  I have a t-shirt that reads, "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."  Tell me what you think?  Am I wrong to fear what we might become given the proper variables?  Am I being too cautious?