Monday, May 02, 2011

USA! USA!

Perhaps never before has such a big Style news day been followed by a larger-still real-news one. Immediate-ish thoughts:

-I did tear up when I went to the NYT home page this morning and saw the firefighters watching the news ticker in Times Square. Contrary to what my Facebook friends and their Facebook friends think, the official WWPD word on the matter is yes, it's OK to cheer this death, even if as a rule, one is not a death-cheerer. And as a rule, one should not be a death-cheerer. It's not some kind of slippery slope to cheering whenever civilians or low-ranking soldiers in enemy countries (well, on the other side of the "war on terror," with its non-geographical boundaries) are killed.

-Allow me one Palin-esque moment (aside from the shared resemblance to Tina Fey, which is continuous): I think part of the wariness re: the cheering is that it's so crass, all that chanting of "USA! USA!" Meanwhile, reading the news I felt much the same sentiment, even if, for cultural reasons, I'm unlikely to drape myself in the flag and get hoisted onto someone's shoulders under any circumstances, even those that most call for it. A momentary lack of nuance in displays of patriotism is not a sign that the country has turned into one of fascist automatons.

-Or, if this seems less morbid, we can think of it as cheering the, well, accomplishment of the many people involved in the process. Seems a mission was, in fact, accomplished. And the American people united - conservatives b/c War on Terror, liberals because look which president this happened under. And if anyone's going to be a scapegoat for that purpose, how about the man responsible for 9/11?

-What will the Obama-hating wing of the right make of this? (Not sure where this comes from but it gets the point across.)

-If there is/was cheering through the streets of Paris, it's not audible from my dorm room, which suggests there isn't/wasn't any.

-Obviously this is not the End of Terrorism, of al Qaeda, etc. Why do commentators and politicians keep pointing this out as if they're arguing against something? Does anyone think this? Or, do the people who do think this matter in the conversation, in that they have clearly not been paying attention to the world around them and are unlikely to start doing so now? The more relevant question - which, to be fair, is also being asked - is, is this going to reignite the passion of his followers, making the world a more dangerous place? Is this a stupid question to ask because only time will tell?

12 comments:

Sigivald said...

What will the Obama-hating wing of the right make of this? (Not sure where this comes from but it gets the point across.)

Probably still hate him and point out that he did not personally do jack-all other than "not order the military to stop lookin' for him".

While I don't hate Obama (and I'm not actually right-wing except that anyone-who-isn't-a-Progressive seems to be so automatically these days), I've found that graphic irritating since the moment I saw it last night.

Obama didn't kill bin Laden - just as if he'd been killed while Bush was President, Bush wouldn't have killed bin Laden.

Neither President would have been (nor should have been) directly or personally involved in the hunt.

This is right and proper - and precisely why the President doesn't deserve personal credit for it, no matter what his name is.

(This principle is one that should be more widely used in political thought than it is, sadly. Very little is actually the President's direct credit or fault, it turns out.

The sooner people abandon the President-as-Sun-King idea - whether to harm their political opponents or support their allies - the better.)

(I agree, also, on the whole "not the End of The War" issue, though I have actually seen - via Facebook - friends of friends apparently quite seriously saying "time to bring the troops home" or the like.

I can't comprehend that, and would have been unwilling to credit it, but I saw it with my own ocular appendages.

So, yes, at least some small fraction of people really do somehow think that.)

Freddie said...

Mike Meginnis has it right in quoting Milan Kundera; the chants aren't glee. It's kitsch.

"Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch."

Phoebe said...

A WWPD first - critiques from the right and left!

Anyway, Sigivald, there is space between "right-wing" and "progressive." It's called center-left, and you're commenting on one of its blogs.

Freddie, I assume providing the definition of kitsch was a way of diminishing the sincerity of what people felt? I'll grant that some in the crowds were probably just happy to have an excuse to drink and bounce around in a horde - not unlike when I was in college and all of a sudden a boring class became a great reason for some to cut "for Iraq" - but this was a really big deal. I don't even have a personal connection to 9/11 other than having been in Manhattan at the time and having witnessed the immediate aftermath from a close-ish distance (and having worried, thanks to incorrect news reports, that everyone at the high school I'd just graduated from was about to be blown up, and having ended up living near it, and having to watch tourists take photos on regular days smiling in front of the site), but yes, I really was moved by this. I don't think the photo of the firefighters was a gratuitous ploy at heartstrings, but a genuine recognition of the significance of what was going on. I guess I'm not above having this sort of unsophisticated response. So, while, again, I was not jumping up and down in a crowd, chanting anything, and while this is not my style, I supported what I saw. (Gawker of all places has a decent take on this issue.)

Freddie said...

Perhaps I've just grown to be too much of a cynic. Part of the problem with kitsch-- with our present times I guess-- is that once you reach a certain critical mass, it becomes too hard to tell one from the other. I don't doubt that people were moved. I don't even think many people were conscious in pretending to be moved. I just worry about the ways in which people felt subtly pressured to appear to be moved.

Phoebe said...

Freddie,

I don't know if I'm the best to analyze this, as I do have some personal connection to the event this all points back to. I think back to time spent in a part of the city that no longer exists, to my father's one-time office in a building that fared only slightly better than the towers (thankfully he had a different job as of just before that day), and I feel... all kinds of parochial-patriotic-unnuanced, but for a part of the city I grew up in, not in a super-abstract, this is how we should all feel sense. But because this was my experience, I can't judge the sentiments of those who feel connected in a more remote way.

I mean, yes, there's crowd-ish behavior, but a) not all crowds, not even all nationalistic crowds, are fascistic harbingers of evil to come, and b) part of the anti-cheering response has struck me as similar in tone to the 'I'm too cool to care about the royal wedding' from a few days ago. Obviously it's a certain sort of person who would and who would not get into a crowd and behave this way. I think the option's there (in some parts of the country) to be the skeptic who sits this one out to reflect.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

@sigivald
"Neither President would have been (nor should have been) directly or personally involved in the hunt."

Absurd, the President is CinC of the armed forces. In the US political system he is the head of the executive as well as head of state.

" the President doesn't deserve personal credit for it, no matter what his name is."

equally absurd. he'd have borne all the responsibility had it been fucked up.

@phoebe, fine post

Phoebe said...

Eamonn,

Was just going to reply again to Sigivald re: commander-in-chief, but you've saved me the trouble. And yes, he'd have totally been blamed if it hadn't gone well/if his first term ended without his having gotten anywhere with this.

And, thanks! One agreement, one disagreement from the left, and one from the right - doesn't get better than that.

PG said...

It's also worth noting that this was the result of a specific set of policies, i.e.:

(1) Asserting that if we had actionable intelligence on bin Laden, we would go after him directly even if this might seem to violate a country's sovereignty; basically, going Israeli commando style. This was a point of difference between Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy in the debates.

(2) Prioritizing Afghanistan/ Pakistan over Iraq in terms of resources, especially intelligence. Also, not getting into another ground war that would be sucking up more resources.

(3) No longer trusting the entire Pakistani government/military. Sorry, but the ISI has seriously problems in terms of some of its people's sentiments re: America and al Qaeda; if the U.S. had alerted them of this operation when it was first being planned, it would have failed somehow.

None of these three items is something that we can assume every president would have done.

X.Trapnel said...

Sigivald: I agree, also, on the whole "not the End of The War" issue, though I have actually seen - via Facebook - friends of friends apparently quite seriously saying "time to bring the troops home" or the like.
I can't comprehend that, and would have been unwilling to credit it, but I saw it with my own ocular appendages.


I'm fairly sure that everyone expressing that sentiment means something like: "we should have brought the troops home *already*; let's use this symbolic moment as an excuse to declare victory and do it now."

Anonymous said...

Here's an apt quotation for those of us who are pleased that OBL is no more, but who are not usually blood thirsty:

“I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” - Mark Twain

JM

PG said...

Apparently that was Clarence Darrow, not Twain.

PG said...

But.