It was a Sunday night at around 9 p.m., and I was busy doing bi-weekly duties for my community-sustained residence hall. So I was still in the kitchen cleaning pots and pans when I heard a guy running down the stairs telling everybody that Osama bin Laden was dead.
Everyone who was cleaning the dining room, studying or just having conversations in that area rushed to the common room next door. Our 40 inch flat screen, which is always playing some sort of sports, was now surfing all the news channels available. At that time nothing had been officially said yet. Most of the news anchors were cautiously saying that President Obama would soon give a speech addressing national security, but weren’t mentioning bin Laden’s name. A few others were speculating about what it would be but still not saying anything official.
The only thing that was certain was that Obama’s speech was going to be delayed for around an hour more. Probably to be aired at the same time of Donald Trump’s show, “The Apprentice” (he he). In the meantime I went back to the kitchen to finish my job, but it seemed like everything else had lost importance. Impressively for a house of 50 or so men, conversations about the NBA playoffs had stopped, and every conversation was guessing at whether Osama had been killed.
That was the first time this incident surprised me – although not the last. It wasn’t the fact that a well-planned and perfectly calculated military movement could have been successfully executed, but the fact that so many people would be waiting so anxiously for someone’s obituary. I finished my chore but I didn’t leave the area. I couldn’t; this was history in the making.
How many people heard the rest of it?
When the president started speaking, everyone went silent as if we were, ironically enough, at a funeral. And when he officially announced that Osama bin Laden was indeed dead, everyone in the room smiled. Some even let a quiet laugh escape out of their mouths.
Immediately most people in the room started typing incredibly fast on their smartphones or laptops, which were conveniently logged onto Twitter or Facebook, or in some cases both at the same time. Everyone was rushing, trying to beat the other guy and be the first one posting the news with a creative, clever or funny commentary. At the same time, fireworks could be heard from houses close to ours, even some people yelling “America” or things like that, all while the presidential speech was still on.
I wonder how many people, besides my hall where people were respectful enough, heard the rest of it. How many people heard that this is indeed a milestone in the war against terrorism but it isn’t over yet? How many people heard the pledge of their president to try and keep in mind that the enemy is not Islam and this is not a platform for hate crimes against other religions? How many people noticed that while President Obama was still speaking, the little scroll across the bottom of the screen read that the U.S. had officially increased the terrorism threat level?
I don’t know – probably too many people were too busy celebrating someone else’s death to care about that. Around midnight when Mr. Obama had just finished his speech, there were already drunk people chanting songs from “Team America.” I guess some college kids find an excuse to drink over anything.
A week later…
That was all nearly a week ago. Where do we stand now? As could be expected, both supporters and critics of the president have expressed their opinions on this matter. Supporters took this moral victory to forget about other important issues like the economy and unemployment….and the fact that the death of Osama doesn’t mean the end of al Qaeda. But still, this victory shows the strength of the U.S. military, and Osama’s death brings tranquility to 9/11 victims’ families and that is reason to celebrate.
On the other hand, the opposition is now showing skepticism over whether bin Laden is even dead! If showing joy on someone’s death (which was surprisingly common right after the president’s speech) isn’t morbid enough, how sick is it to expect that national or even international media show bin Laden’s body as “proof” that this operation was successful? Yes, a moral and patriotic victory for America is, what a surprise, deformed in the political game of who’s right or wrong; a political game blurring the operation that was originally a step forward on the war against terrorism.
But how did the people themselves react? More than ever the power of social networks was shown – how fast they can spread the word. In just the first couple of hours after the news came out, people were rejoicing, full of pride and patriotism, and showing it with new Facebook statuses or Twitter updates.
A brilliant tweet just the day after said something like: “What to expect with Osama’s death? 20% jokes, 50% of the same jokes stolen by others, 20% people sick of jokes, 10% statistics.”
Sure enough, in the days that followed, patriotism or pride were smoothly and slowly replaced by comic commentaries displaying less and less relevant information on the event and more made up (or even copied) jokes. The internet overflowed with these “witty” remarks. A lot of memes popped up either making fun of bin Laden or praising Obama’s action. Flash games emerged featuring Obama as a hero. I don’t have a smartphone but I’m sure someone must have come up with a silly “app.” Then the viral (and virus-spreading) Facebook posts claiming to have the real picture or even the real video of bin Laden’s death.
And now, as the opposition leads attacks against the office and asks for proof of bin Laden being dead, and Obama takes a tour of Ground Zero and tries to extend this well-needed boost of patriotism (right after Superman says he will give up his U.S citizenship), right now, where do we stand?
I don’t know about the rest of the people but I am one of the 20% sick of the jokes.