I’ve noticed that, as a whole society, Americans like fixating on things until there’s something else to fixate on. In fact, if we don’t have some tragedy or positive event to cling to for some unnecessarily extended period, we just feel lost.
Let us go back for a few months to illustrate: Wisconsin threatens to dissolve as the governor goes to war on state employee unions, thus chasing Democratic senators out of the state. Protests and a sit-in in the capitol building go on for over a week, making some wonder just who’s left to make the cheese.
Then the middle east implodes–Tunisia and then Egypt have popular uprisings that eventually result in the governments falling. As Americans, we smile because we always like it when democracy wins over all other, lesser, evil forms of government.
After that, Japan suffers a strong earthquake, but worse, faces a horrible tsunami that, in this modern age, is captured in vivid, graphic, horrifying pictures. We are riveted to TV and the internet to see pictures and video of entire cities wiped off the map by what amounts to nothing more than water.
Then we become tranfixed and irrationally worried about the nuclear plant that they can’t control. California starts checking for fallout, when in reality, we need to worry about another 25-square-mile area of the world getting sealed off just like Chernobyl.
Just as we were coming to grips with that (and honestly, when’s the last time you heard a news story on the TV or radio about the power plant’s status?), the popular protests reach Libya and Qadafi does what he’s always done: defied the world, and starts shooting and bombing his own people to stop the attempted overthrow of the government. The American government responds, even though I’m quite positive that the people of the country have no idea what the hell we’re doing there.
Then comes the Bin Laden episode. The rapture of finding and killing one man, who apparently has so single-handedly angered all of us so much that the mission’s success is nearly declared a cause for a holiday, grips us all for days on end.
Really now, he’s one guy. He’s was killed four days ago. He isn’t the entire organization. And yet, through news stories, we’ve all learned his eye color, his life story, how many wives and children he had, and the fact that he had money and phone numbers sewn into his clothing. I was just waiting today for the announcement that his mother had sewn his name into his underwear as well, but that never came. But he’s dead, and really, what did he do to us? Sure, he recruited and funded a group of zealots to stage a huge and very public attack on this country, but it’s been our reaction after that that I believe has terrorized us more: 10 years of wars in two countries in an area of the world where America has never been very popular; the implementation of paranoid travel rules and restrictions (do we really need to see people virtually naked to make sure they aren’t carrying a gun? And I really hope that we can rid our vocabulary of the term “aggressive pat down”); and a prolonged economic downturn that was started by sky-high gas prices 10 years ago, and just exacerbated by layoffs and then the whole financial collapse. Bin Laden didn’t bring us to this point in our history: hundreds of members of congress, from both sides of the aisle; two presidents; countless party spin-doctors; and political zealots in our own country have done a pretty good job of that on their own. And the death of Bin Laden won’t bring us out of our problems.
And finally, just when you thought we might get a week of silence, life goes full-circle: two news stories come out of Wisconsin today. One saying the governor signed a bill that would prohibit cities and counties from rescinding the law passed by the state those months ago (which is on hold pending a court case anyway); and the other saying that the governor has also created a new reward system for government employees. (Please try squaring that in your head with all of the discourse that went on during the debate…I promise you’ll come up with nothing more than a headache).
Normally, I’d fall back on the baseball season as a diversion. But the Twins have tripped coming out of the gate, and we’re already 9 games back…
I can’t win.
See you tomorrow.