Monday, May 2, 2011

What I Felt

I was sitting on my couch watching a horror movie with a few friends when the announcement was made. When the movie ended and I was in my room changing into pants to go out for dinner, my buddy said, "Hey Will. Hop online. I just got an email that says Osama bin Laden is dead."

I hopped over to my iMac and, sure enough, Google News was bursting with headlines marking bin Laden's death.

The video stream on CNN.com wasn't loading fast enough so I clicked over to my number one source of news coverage: Facebook. My News Feed was hemorrhaging with status updates of all varieties voicing the same resounding message...Osama bin Laden is dead.

They ranged from the humorous: "And in a final act of terrorism, Osama bin Laden has to go and screw up my date night." To the lyrical: "Obama said Osama's dead. Say that five times fast." To the inspirational: "It's amazing how the morale and general attitude of everyone here in Afghanistan has improved so vastly in a matter of minutes." To the sentimental: "America. Fuck yeah!"

My favorite update came from my brother-in-law: "Well, I guess Toby Keith will finally have something new to sing about."

Not wanting to be left out, I typed in the first thing that came to mind... "Does this mean Sarah Palin's not getting elected in 2012?" I posted it and went off to dinner.

About five minutes into the walk to the restaurant, I started getting nervous. My Facebook friends are pretty evenly split between a bunch of Bible-totin', Republican-votin', salt-of-the-Earth kind of people back in Southwest Florida, and a large brigade of liberal homosexuals in Los Angeles. I can't think of a time that I posted a politically-charged status update to Facebook without creating a small comment war between people who only share awareness of my existence as a connection.

I checked my Wall a couple times over dinner. Lots of "likes" and no negative comments. I kept checking over and over until a strange thought dawned on me.

I didn't really care if my status update started a dispute between some of my Facebook friends. That had happened plenty of times before, and I always just sat back and watched the entertainment. In actuality, I was suddenly embarrassed because I publicly posted a comment about the event in the first place.

I thought, "Is a Sarah Palin joke really the way I want to think back on this night in history?"

I quickly erased my status and began an attempt to craft a new one.

Being the guy who gets choked up during any fireworks display on the 4th of July, I quickly wrote... "So proud to be an American right now!" But then I decided to change it to a comment more directly about the event... "I can't wait to hear an interview with whoever killed Osama bin Laden." That made me think about my friends in the military, and I quickly switched to... "LET'S GET OUR TROOPS HOME NOW!!" But then I wondered about how long it would actually take before our troops could come home. And what kind of thoughts must be running through the heads of the people who were there when bin Laden died. Then I thought about what this must feel like for anyone who lost a loved one in the attacks on 9/11 or the war overseas in the decade since.

I decided not to post anything.

Sometimes a quick status update just isn't enough space for me to process something. Sometimes it takes 578 words to realize that some thoughts and emotions just can't be contained by words in the first place.

***

Editorial Note: There has been some discrepancy over the sentence: "My Facebook friends are pretty evenly split between a bunch of Bible-totin', Republican-votin', salt-of-the-Earth kind of people back in Southwest Florida, and a large brigade of liberal homosexuals in Los Angeles." It should be noted that these are not my only criteria for friendship. I have many, MANY amazing friends who are neither Republican nor gay. I also have many friends who live in New York, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco...hell, some of them reside overseas! I admit that the generalization is unfair to the true demographics of my Facebook friend list...however, I'm leaving it in there because it's the most economical way for me to describe the broad spectrum of people who comprise that friend list. People that I love regardless of their political stances, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and geographical locations.

Plus, that sentence makes me chuckle every time I read it...so it's staying in. WS, 5/3/11

3 comments:

Darcy said...

True Story. I'm not a republican, nor am I gay, and Will is still a friend of mine! That's what makes him so Chill (see what i did there?).

All jokes aside though, this was a thoughtful post Will - I too have been taking some time to process the implications of Bin Laden's death, definitely takes more than 140 characters.

Katie said...

I am also neither Republican nor gay, and yet Will is a friend too. Proof: he quoted my status update in his blog post! Score!

I initially posted a "proud to be an American" comment as well -- not out of some jingoistic sense of "hey, we're number one," but mostly because the operation was well-handled (they've been preparing for the operation for months -- a long time for no one to find out) and because Obama courteously recognized the efforts of a former president who may have contributed to the success of the mission. Bipartisanship, good planning, and a form of justice served. Bravo!

But I soon was pissed by my conservative friends who seemed unable to praise our President for a well-executed plan, as well as images of people drunkenly celebrating in the streets with foam USA #1 fingers, as well as Christian friends saying "God bless the SEALS who shot OBL in cold blood." As though G-d takes delight in any death, cold-blooded or otherwise. I feel like the most apropos response is a grim appreciation of the event, as well as a stalwart resolution to work harder for peace, so 9/11 never happens again.

But you know, that's just me. :)

Micah said...

Will, this is such an interesting commentary on the times we live in: we get our headlines from Facebook, and we express ourselves in 140 to 420 characters or less. Thanks for sharing (and using as many words as necessary).