Anthony Giovanni Mina sent in an essay on the killing of Osama Bin Laden:
Every morning before school, my host-mother here in Italy calls my name to wake me up around seven. She then typically does me the courtesy of letting me know exactly what time it is so I know whether or not I have to rush. This morning was not a typical morning. I had been having a peculiar dream about smoking marijuana-cannollis when, around 7:20 AM I hear my host-mom holler and, rather than tell me the time, say, “Tony, hanno ucciso Bin Laden!”. Tony, they killed Bin Laden. A few minutes later, I woke up, took a shower, attributed the strange thought to the wacky-cannolli, and went to school. In my first class, religion, the teacher made the announcement, confirming that I had not still been dreaming. Osama Bin Laden was dead.
Though there was no concensus, many of these Italians, students and faculty, defiantly presented their beliefs: “You can’t celebrate his death; whoever he was, it’s still homicide.”. The teacher then asked me, “Why are you smiling?”. I wasn’t so sure how to respond to his question, so I just said something to the effect of “Justice has been served”. I thought for a moment, though, and considered: are they right? Is it wrong to smile? Is it wrong to feel excellent due to the death of another human?
Maybe. Maybe it is. Am I happy because he’s dead? No.
There is something we all must understand to decide whether it’s ok to take joy in this event or not, and that is “Who is dead, and why?”. Some would justify Bin Laden’s execution by asserting that he killed three-thousand Americans and therefore must be punished. I disagree. Osama Bin Laden did not kill 216 airline passengers, 33 flight crewmen, 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, 15 emergency medical technicians, 3 peace officers, 125 national defense workers, and nearly 2,500 American and foreign citizens inside the World Trade Center. Burning planes and buildings did that. Osama’s crime was that of assaulting not thousands of persons, but rather one people.
This is a man that defined an era. He bestowed upon hundreds of millions of Americans a never-before-known sense of rage, distrust, and fear. No, not fear; terror. Nine Years, seven months, and twenty-one days ago, terror was what you felt when someone dropped a spider on your face while you were sleeping. Three hours later, it become the word used to describe a political concept so horriffic that only a synonym for the word “horror” satisfied the sentiment attached to it. President Franklin Roosevelt told us that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. That was an inspiring statement that granted courage to millions of Americans at the time and for the next sixty years…until “fear itself” started arming itself with jacket bombs, IEDs, and AK-47s.
Kill a man and you’re a murderer. Kill ten men and you’re emotionally impaired. Kill a thousand men and you’re a hero. This is a proverb that we must not permit to ring true in our modern, civilized world. Osama Bin Laden will not be worshipped, he will not be idolized, and he will not be loved. The damage that he did to the collective American mind is irreversible and will remain in the blood of every man and woman that will ever be born in this country. He had a greater influence on American culture than Elvis Presley, John Travolta, and Michael Jackson combined. It was such that the ten years after the September 11th attacks are not referred to as the ’00s, as the new millennium, or as the 21st century, but instead as the “post-9/11 atmosphere”. But these days are no more. Why? Because they were brutally assassinated by a United States Navy Sea Air and Land strike team.
So, in the end, no – I’m not happy that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Rejoicing in the death of a fellow human is barbaric and exactly the kind of mindset he wanted to infect our people like a virus. I celebrate not the death of a man, but that of an age – an Age of Terror. When fear itself knocks rudely on our front door at dinner time, we pay it no attention. When it takes up arms, it gets shot, water-boarded, hung, and eliminated. Maybe I have more faith in my country than many of you do, but I firmly believe that nothing can kill the American Dream. Not even a decade defined by the word “terror”. I applaud Presidents W. Bush and Obama for their ardent committment to seeing this issue through to the end, despite all opposition. Now, I think I speak for everyone when I say “Good job ending a decade of fear. Now let’s bring our boys home.”
Personally, I am happy he is dead, it gives me some closure and satisfaction in America. Perhaps I am uncivilized because of this, but I believe the alternative is worse. This event does not mark the end of terrorism, but it is a definite step forward. Hopefully now, we can spend more energy solving problems on our own soil.
Looks like it’s outside submission week; this one is from my Soul Brother, Fat Tony. Tony has is spending his senior year of high school in Italy as an exchange student, he describes the experience as “very Italian.” Tony is a rocker who knows what he believes, and sticks to it. He has been described as having a “strong moral compass,” and is fairly objective on sensitive matters. Like Dylan Reid Faircloth, my other Soul Brother, he knows the line and walks it closely.
This is his take on what Europeans think of Americans.
People in Europe have a lot of preconceptions about Americans, but they really aren’t the ones you would expect. Maybe one of the more interesting stereotypes I’ve come across will be revealed in this little anecdote:
I went out to a bar last night with some friends here in South Italy. We were having a good time, and I was quite enjoying my virgin pina colada and shrimp pizza, when my good friend, an eastern European woman, pointed towards the door and announced to all at the table, “Hey, look, it’s Tony’s friends!”. I turned around and saw three people I didn’t know coming into the bar. I didn’t get the joke. They weren’t wearing black jeans and band T-shirts. They didn’t have long hair. They weren’t beautiful women. After a moment of confusion, I realized the “punchline”: they were black.
I wasn’t entirely sure that that was what they were going on about, so I asked, “Oh, I guess being friends with black people is an American thing, huh?”. I kind of expected a disgusted response along the lines of, “How could you be so arrogant and racist as to say something like that?”. Instead, one of the Italian girls said “Yeah, I would never be friends with a black person.” Though they didn’t directly express such a strong sense of prejudice as did she, everybody else at the table (which included Italians, an Eastern European, a Scandinavian, and a Central American) acknowledged that yes, the fact that I enjoy spending time with those of African heritage or birth is very weird and very distinctly American.
I was pretty shocked. I had observed a ton of racism during my time away from America, but this just caught me completely off-guard. From what I have observed, our greatest vices as Americans, according to Europeans, include the following: a love of McDonald’s (and the ensuing consequent health issues), complete ignorance of geography, incompetence with foreign languages, and, apparently, willingness to associate openly with members of an undesirable caste.
Without getting into a detailed rant on each specific issue, I’ll point out quickly: The McDonald’s and Burger King in town are always jam-packed, and I am in the lower levels of fitness among Americans, yet I am the most fit by a large margin among my 26 European classmates. I have yet to find a European more familiar with American geography than I am with European geography; as a matter of fact, I remember drawing a much more accurate map of Latin America then a team of four Latin Americans working together. Yes, we are terrible at foreign languages because whenever we try to practice them, Europeans either insist upon speaking to us in English or they respond in their native languages viciously mocking our American accents. Yes, we spend time with the peoples that the rest of the world have always hated and never given a chance at a decent life. And you know what? We don’t even freakin’ care.
You heard me right. We don’t care. We don’t care if we’re being breathed on by somebody contaminated by the stench of the unfashionable neighborhoods where a hardworking family has been forced to reside for seven hundred years. We don’t turn our heads in disgust and curse the perpetrators’ insolence when we’re walking around with nothing to do and come across a group of Gypsies that invite us to take part in whatever festival they happen to be celebrating. We don’t spit on the ground and run to change into a clean shirt upon becoming victim to a piece of African immigrant scum who had the nerve to give us a friendly pat on the back as we were passing by him and his friends.
Because we are that scum. We, the people of the United States of America, are the scum of the Earth. The rejects of every part of the world. I live in the Italian city that my ancestors escaped from 110 years ago, but why did they leave? Because they lived in Grumo, the part of town that is so despicable to every other city-dweller that calling someone “Grumese” is a standard but incredibly demeaning insult. It is written write at Lady Liberty’s feet: Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!. When you don’t fit in in the rest of the world, go to America. That was how it was a hundred years ago, and that is still how it is today.
Another stereotype is that we are obnoxious, and that one I am not going to deny. I assure you that I will always be so intrusive as to bring a “negro” to your birthday party when you said I could take a guest, and no, I will not apologize for the discomfort that I caused. I will go out of my way to shake your hand forcefully right after you see me do so with one of your undesirables, and yes, I will do it just to piss you off. Do I like creating controversy? No. Will I ever stop comporting myself in such an unheard of manner, flouting all sembrances of propriety? I’ll let you answer that one yourself.
All in all, it’s your culture. Do as you like, but I’d like to remind you: this is the year twenty-freakin’-eleven. People are starting to get pissed off, and I’d say it’s about time.
-Anthony Giovanni Mina, international scumbag
By the way, after asking that question last night, I glanced over at the door again and realized that one of the “hooligans” in question was, as a matter of fact, one of my best friends.
I try to stay off of the topic of politics on the blog–it’s not what I’m here to talk about–however, the recent events of the government almost shutting down, and the public protests, bring up a few philosophical ideas.
Cat Hollander has written in with an essay on the subject of Patriotism. The writing is fairly neutral on the political issues, focusing more on our individual moral responsibility.
Last night, at approx. 2300 EST on April 8, 2011, President Obama announced to the world that the United States’ government would not shut down and that Congress, after days of bickering, had passed one of the largest budget cuts in history. Finally. The world breathed a sigh of relief. But throughout this entire ordeal, I noticed a trend throughout the interwebs that was, at the least, worrying:
All over Facebook and other sites I frequent more or less constantly were copy-paste posts full of statements of patriotism and lofty phrases in application to . And now it is time for one thing to be made clear- Patriotism, true patriotism is not determined by how many waving American flags you can rotate on your desktop background, nor how many you can fit in your yard. True patriotism is not determined by how many “Support Our Troops” pages you can join on Facebook, nor by how many times you can wave the Constitution in someone’s face while yelling at the top of your lungs about its application to something you are only judging based on your own personal moral compass, and not the document you are shoving under the nose of your “debate” opponent- “debate” in quotes simply because shouting about a document you have never read is not in any sane universe a debate.
At least in my world, Patriotism, like integrity, is doing the right thing only because it is the right thing. In his Farewell Address, George Washington said “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” It is not enough to join various Facebook groups simply to impress your JSA friends, or that politically aware cutie who sits behind you in Biology. You need to know what you believe, and have the wisdom to listen to others who disagree and truly see where they come from. You need to be aware of what your associates are saying, and decide for yourself where you stand. You need to act on your own volition, not based on what someone else says on the radio, in an editorial, or on a TV talk show. You are the only one who can decide what you believe, and you need to base that on openness and awareness of what is going on in the world. You need to listen to all sides, understand where they come from, and alter or uphold your beliefs based upon your new knowledge.
Love America for its virtues, because it is truly the greatest place in the world, and work towards making it even greater. America is great because of its people constantly working to improve not only their country, but themselves. Patriotism is defined as the love of one’s country. But to love something, you cannot sit back in your lawn chair with your beer belly, chugging Bud Light while bellowing at the football game playing on your flat screen you bought on your already over drawn credit cards. You have to work for it, to improve not only it but yourself. You have to protect it, defend it with your words, your work, and if need be, your very life.
True patriotism is an ideal, and like most ideals it is almost impossible to come by. But one of the greatest things that makes this greatest country of ours so- dare I say it?- great is our constant longing to strive for the ideal, for that perfection. No man or woman in this country has not strived to make themselves into their ideal, whether their ideal is thinner, or stronger, or smarter, or whatever they want. Here, we teach to strive for excellence, for perfection, even when we know that perfection is unattainable. America will never be perfect, but we are, have been, and will always be great. Yes, there are terrible things in our past. But there are terrible things in every man, woman, child, and country’s pasts. True patriotism is all of these things, and more. But it is not, and never will be, simply something you can copy and paste a status about just to feel good about yourself and look good for your friends.
Visit Cat’s blog at http://militarycat-simpleviews.blogspot.com