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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Glad to be Wrong

I think I was wrong.

You know, I was a raw nerve of distress and ambivalence upon hearing the news of bin Laden's death. I can't say that I was upset to hear he was dead, by any means, given all the suffering and destruction he was directly responsible for and eager to bring about in the future.

But I also happen to know the difference between justice and retribution, I know that retribution leads nowhere good, that it is difficult to end cycles of violence but that this is always difficult work worth trying since the alternative is always incomparably worse.

Also, I strongly oppose the death penalty -- and not just because it is ruinously expensive and inevitably inequitably administered and prone to tragic miscarriages of justice easily as devastating as the injustices it pretends to be equal to without ever rectifying those injustices even when it proceeds "smoothly," but also because I don't think states should be in the comfortable death administration business and regard it as crucially democratizing to circumscribe their agency in this way -- and, by the way, I am not particularly bamboozled by the substitution of the word "assassination" for "capital punishment."

So, anyway, bin Laden was dead, and I found myself thinking of all the stupidity and death and crowing patriotic bloodlust and waste on so many sides occasioned by, focused on, arising from this man, and I felt sad and ambivalent, and sad at my ambivalence, and ambivalent at my sadness, and so on and so forth in my usually muddled way.

And then I started seeing these news reports of spontaneous gatherings of folks that I was being told were growing explosively, and the faces were overwhelmingly the faces of young people (I didn't notice the rather telling difference in the diversity of these faces as compared with the greater diversity of the cities in which they were being declared to be so representative, by the way, or the specificities of the campuses where these rallies were taking place as compared to the ones where they did not), and hearing the rather terrorizing roar of those gatherings, hearing the barking dog whooping of USA! USA! seeing all these young people weeping and grinning and jumping up and down as the punditocrats declared that across America's college campuses, "everywhere," similar gatherings were erupting and then went on to offer their pious gimcrack pop-psychological explanations of this "phenomenon" as if it were true.

It now appears to me that these celebrations were not so widespread as reported, that many were more subdued than the pep rallies that drew the cameras of our vapid insipid media sensationalists, and that I obviously should not have accepted the word of such out-of-touch usually-wrong pundits that the same frat boys and party animals who take any occasion at all to whoop it up did so again upon hearing of the death of bin Laden somehow constituted The Authentic and Monolithic Voice of An American Generation.

Of course, I have heard much more thoughtful responses from Americans of all ages and regions and persuasions since that night. I've read lots of intelligent, sensitive, sarcastic commentary that makes me feel much less a stranger in a strange land the last couple of days (some of it right here in the Moot). I daresay it is not so surprising when all is said and done to realize that thoughtful decent people were not out-shouting the yahoos on the streets when bin Laden was killed and hamming it up for the cameras. They would scarcely be thoughtful decent people were they doing so, after all.

I think I swallowed a dumb-dumb corporate-media narrative (the ugly misbegotten stupidity of which was no doubt just ignorant and inertial more than conspiratorial in its dynamics) is what I think I did. I was upset and lost my head and swallowed too uncritically the hairball the media coughed up on the spot and came momentarily to inhabit the vulnerable emotional incoherent ignorant mind-set of the classic American "Independent Voter": You know, a complete fucking idiot.

I feel a bit better now.

1 comment:

jimf said...

> . . .the pep rallies that drew the cameras of our vapid insipid
> media sensationalists. . .

Well, you know, the world is coming to an end in a few weeks.
I saw it yesterday morning in a real, professionally-printed,
glass-encased ad on a New York subway train, so it must
be true.

When that happens, CNN and Fox News will have something new
to talk about, and bin Laden will join Kate & Wills as
yesterday's news. Though I fear the end of the world might
cause the real estate market to sink again, and gas prices
might inch higher too.

(Somebody's spending a lot of money on these ads:)

Some alternative, much more plausible, predictions: