Monday, May 2, 2011

The Day After News of Osama Bin Laden's Death

Not knowing the news of Bin Laden's death, my parents were woken by drunken shouts, cheering, and chanting in the middle of night, not unusual in a college town. Still, my mother turned to my father and said into the dark air of their bedroom, "Is the war over?"

This is something that would never dawn on me to say because, from my generation's perspective, wars don't really end.

In fact, what's so incredible about last night's news about the death of Osama Bin Laden is that it's news from the White House that could be met with shouts of joy, cheering, and chanting, drunken and otherwise.

To my mind, there are a number of things that ground this news in the present moment.

Mainly, how it is so very much a transmedia event. I found out via Facebook. Poet Seth Abramson put out a message asking, urgently, if anyone knew why the President was set to address the nation at 10:30 pm. Thinking I might catch some of the speech, I rushed to the tv and heard the news (and was met with the fascinating prospect of broadcasters broadcasting for over an hour with only one sentence or so of news to broadcast). Throughout the coverage I watched (finally calling it a night at around 2am), I ran back and forth between the TV and my computer, wanting to hear the news and the reactions to it at the same time.

And, not to be all upside about technology, the footage of Ground Zero made it clear that more New Yorkers were filming the event -- on iPhones and iPads and cameras -- then were simply living it, which is something that I worry about, in general.

I woke Dave up and told him the news -- I write late at night, he wakes up early getting kids to school. He registered it vaguely and fell back to sleep. So I was up alone. But I wasn't really alone. There was novelist Chantel Acevedo saying, "Are my Hialeah friends out making noise with pots and pans yet? Yeah, you know you are..." There was novelist Mark Winegardner posting the Gawker Report of Fox News coverage -- the headline reading -- in a way that's so deeply messed up it could only come from Fox -- "Obama Bin Laden is dead."

In our house, we have occasional family meetings. We aren't part of a Church right now, which I've written about for NPR, and so we wing it, because I still feel the need to take a step back, to think about people who are suffering, and to pray, as a family.

Last night, before the news broke, was one of those times. We looked back at the week -- personally, the losses and the accomplishments -- and in world news. Among other things, we talked about the tornadoes. We discussed the Royal Wedding (and I pushed my jaded feelings about royalty in general). We said good-bye to Michael Scott who is no longer working at Dunder-Mifflin. And, as a family, we watched President Obama roast Trump at the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- a must-see.

The fact that this truly historic moment comes on the heels of some of the most petty politics in the history of petty politics is noteworthy. On Facebook I saw a message that read something like: Sorry for the delay on the long form birth certificate. I was busy killing Osama Bin Laden. Personally, I'd like to say to the Donald, sit down, re-affix your coif, and shut up.

Also (yes, yes, I had issues with the royal wedding; here's my post on Why I Couldn't Care Less), but I'd like to say: Bravo on the wonderful accomplishments there! Those hats were so ... good. I mean, as hats go, they were top-notch! And -- wait. Nevermind. We just trumped your hats.

All of this said, we're not celebrating in this household. We're hopeful. But this is far from the end. This morning, I talked to the kids before they left for school, telling them about the death of Bin Laden. My eleven year old was a baby during 9/11. The four-year-old was only a twinkle in the eye, as they say. The 14-year-old was too young to remember. Only the 16-year-old has a slim memory of the Towers falling. All in all, the world before the Twin Towers fell doesn't really exist for them. This morning, I told them about the twelve-year-old boy who detonated a vest, killing himself and four others, in a market in southeastern Afghanistan's Paktika province. And although we brace for retaliation, I said that I hoped Bin Laden's death will eventually lead to more peace and stability.

I think of my mother last night, sitting up in her bed, saying, "Is the war over?" I'm hopeful that, one day, my kids will ask that question and the answer will be yes.