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Yay America

I had an uneasy feeling Sunday night during the initial news stages of bin Laden’s death. Bored with the Mets-Phils game, I’d flipped a few channels over and caught Geraldo Rivera, chuffed as all hell, with both fists clenched mid-air in girlish gesture. A bold, red, news alert icon was at the bottom of the screen and he was being updated by someone with sufficient authority that the story had been confirmed. “Yes! Yes!” Geraldo squealed, like he’d been given a second shot at his live ’86 Al Capone television special, and this time the vault was full. It was a response more appropriate for one’s daughter scoring the winning goal at her soccer match, or landing squarely after her difficult maneuver on the balance beam. Still, this was big news so I kept watching.

Shortly after the confirmation and early, predictably shaky attempts at dissemination, some live pictures started coming in. There was a sizable, boisterous crowd in Washington, near the White House. Those who had gathered didn’t appear much over thirty, with the average age being maybe eighteen or twenty years old. A couple of college dudes took turns hitting each other hard in the shoulder, like they were getting pumped after purchasing an upcoming UFC match on cable. Fresh-faced cheeserettes stood erect and above the crowd on the hands of their boyfriends as though competing at a cheerleading competition. The inevitable “USA! USA!” chants were in full effect, regrettably still in vogue since last used fittingly for our 1980 Olympic ice hockey victory. It struck me that most of these people were mere children when the Twin Towers came down, likely being shielded from the harsh reality by their parents or third grade teachers. I kept thinking of the scene in “Unforgiven” where Clint Eastwood deadpans to the young gunslinger “we all have it coming, kid.”

Not to misrepresent myself – I’m not a particularly thoughtful person, nor was I a big bin Laden fan. I never dug those publicity shots of him in the desert, attempting to crouch his six-five, arthritic frame into position to shoot an assault rifle. Fanatical ambition aside, he helped bring a lot of pain in to the lives of many people, and on a personal level he really fucked up air travel for me over the last ten years. But I have no desire to view the (apparently imminent) death photos nor to see the event parlayed any further into political capital. So far Obama has handled it well – two bullets to the side of the guy’s head and dump him at sea. As for those whining about us traveling by cover of night to carry out a death mission in a sovereign country … boo-hoo. Not giving the Pakistani’s a heads-up was the biggest no-brainer of this whole deal. They’ve got America’s most-wanted holed up in a newly-built, lavish compound within shouting distance of their top military academy and nobody thinks to question who’s in there? These people were burning their garbage every night behind the cover of eighteen foot walls. You don’t have to be Mannix or Barnaby Jones to follow that lead.

I liked a comment that I read on a San Francisco based news site, suggesting that we handle this event in the same manner that 49er coach Bill Walsh instructed his players to behave after scoring a touchdown: “Act like you’ve been there before.” Unfortunately, it will never play out that way. As long as we have this ‘youth’ tag, the face of our country will be represented by clueless, bravado-prone kids who have yet to get their first gray hair, never mind know how to appropriately process death. Yeah, there’s a certain satisfaction in finally getting this guy, but it seems like every time we get something right we immediately play into everybody’s worst expectations. I still think this is a great country, and am fully aware of my emerging Andy Rooney status. But it seems to me lately that America, like youth, is often wasted on the young.

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