Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

On Celebrations

with 6 comments

While there’s undeniably something uncomfortable in scenes of jubilation and celebration following the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden—which, of course, will not return a single person back to life—I do think we have to remember that many of the young people who are making up these crowds were very young children on 9/11/2001. (A 21-year-old was eleven on 9/11; an 18-year-old was eight.) Teaching teenagers the last few years in classes titled “The Imagination of Disaster” and “Apocalypse Soon” has made extremely clear to me how vivid their memories of 9/11 are, and how real their fears from that day remain for them. To them it’s a little bit like Obama killed the devil. I don’t feel any urge to dance in the streets, but I’ve read enough of their essays over the last few years to understand why they do.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 2, 2011 at 1:46 am

6 Responses

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  1. i for one can’t imagine why ANYONE except people like us would not be celebrating. he was the only reason for the past decade of war that retained any semblance of legitimacy

    traxus4420

    May 2, 2011 at 1:56 am

    • Yeah, I was just thinking of adding something about that to the post. There’s some number of people, probably surprisingly large, who think that the fact that he’s dead means the war is over and all the soldiers can come home.

      gerrycanavan

      May 2, 2011 at 1:57 am

    • The idea that “getting a bad guy” would be a quasi-legitimate grounds for war, but stabilizing a key strategic region would not strikes me as the height of absurdity.

      Alex

      May 2, 2011 at 2:02 am

      • Maybe from a realpolitik perspective, but that’s how the U.S. talks about its wars. It’s always about bringing Hitlers to justice, never about managing a global empire. You’re not even allowed to CALL it an empire.

        gerrycanavan

        May 2, 2011 at 2:04 am

      • Yeah, but when you’re eleven, like I was, what they tell you is that America has to get the bad guy. Maybe you figure out the other stuff in the intervening decade, but maybe not, especially if you were younger than eleven and are thus even younger than 21 today.

        vivamus

        May 2, 2011 at 3:36 am

  2. I was 14, not 13, now that I’ve thought about it. I was in 9th-grade science class in central PA when I heard. I don’t really remember any visceral fear or any loss-of-innocence type of moments.

    But to try and speak for people my age, our reaction may have something to do with how the 9/11 attack seemed unreal. And how bin Laden seemed like an unreal, a supernatural sort of enemy, unlike all other geopolitical bad-guys. In a way it seems almost as important that his death confirms that he had really been alive all these years.

    Dan

    May 2, 2011 at 3:47 am


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