Theater Masks

Theater Masks

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Maybe a crazy theory

When I started this blog, I decided not to be political on here. I don't think it's a good idea given my goals in the literary world, and I'm going to stick with that.

However, I want to say something about the backlash against the celebrations for Osama bin Laden's death. I've read numerous articles now criticizing Americans for celebrating in the streets etc. What I haven't noticed, though were comments about the AGE of the people out celebrating. From what I've seen, it's mostly been younger people - college age or thereabouts.

What I find interesting is these people who are out in the streets celebrating are mostly (and of course this isn't everyone since I'm sure there were older people as well) who were kids when 9/11 happened. They've spent their ENTIRE LIVES - or at least any that was even somewhat aware of what's happening in the world, in a post 9/11 state. Think about it - at what age did you first become aware of the world on a scale larger than your own school? For me, I remember the Challenger exploding in 1986 when I was eight, but only because we spent so much time talking about it in school. I VAGUELY remember the Berlin Wall falling in 1989. I was almost 12. I have some memories of the Persian Gulf war, but not really. I didn't REALLY start paying attention to politics until 1992. I remember Clinton's campaign and election. I was fifteen, and I remember thinking how cool it was I'd be able to vote in the next election. Other than that, I really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to what was going on in the world.

Perhaps it's a bit "braggy" to say I'd consider myself of above average intelligence, and above-average awareness for people my age of what's happening in the world. If I wasn't really aware of what was happening in the news (and I know my students now mostly aren't), then we can figure that 9/11 was probably a real shock to many young people not just in what the events WERE, but in the concept of a bigger world view. It woke people up (if temporarily) and made people who probably were barely aware of a new president that there was something else out there. Whether or not those people continued to pay attention to the world at large is another issue - but their awakening to it came on 9/11.

Osama bin Laden's death was a bookend for them. We waited for ten years for this news, and let's face it, it's been pretty bleak for most of us. I think that those of us who are a little older can look at what happened last week for what it was, reflect on how 9/11 changed us, and see it for the benchmark it is. For many, 9/11 started a nightmarish view of a world coming after us, a terror not unlike Darth Vader out there, waiting to destory us. Bin Laden's death was the end of the nightmare, at least on a surface level. Vader was vanquished. As ironic as this is, the cowboy killed the man in the black hat. That trope is etched into our brains - and what happens after the bad guy is defeated? We celebrate. It happened in Star Wars, it happened in Lord of the Rings. It happened in every Western movie ever made. If we, as older Americans, saw pre-9/11 as a time of innocence, think of what those who were younger saw it as? They simply never KNEW anything BUT the terror of Darth Vader staring at them from across the world. Bin Laden's death, on some level signified (whether it truly should or not is another matter) the possibility of a return to innocence.

I don't agree with the celebrations, but I understand them. A generation is waking up from a nightmare. Hopefully it IS the end of the fever dream of the last ten years - only time will tell - but I certainly don't blame them for wishing it so.


  1. I am not sure I agree but it definitely is an interesting way to look at the situation, and one I can say I never considered.

    Thanks for the post.