11 May 2011

Spiking the Ball

The recent demise of Osama Bin Laden set off an eruption of ball spiking, fist bumping and back slapping across the U.S. Loud cries of "we got him" permeated the 24 hour media cycle as the President took credit for the operation that killed him, the Republicans took credit for the interrogations that led to the intelligence that killed him, liberals suddenly became pro-military and conservatives whined that pictures of the body were not released. In my hometown, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall tweeted his views on the subject and was subsequently shredded across the Internet as a no-nothing athlete that would be better off just keeping his mouth shut.

A couple of observations. I believe that this sense that "we" got Bin Laden has been fostered by a long war which has impacted very few Americans. Despite this lack of direct experience, the majority of the citizens of this country seem to feel they have some personal stake in the war. This is a view not far from the American sports fan who proclaims "we" won the Stanley Cup, the World Series or the Super Bowl when their favorite team wins a championship. In this case they apply this logic to SEAL Team 6, the new American fan favorite. In a land of commercialization and virtual experience, one can even bop on down to the local Game Stop to pick up a copy of "SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALS" for Playstation 3 and shoot virtual terrorists all afternoon long. I wonder when the Pakistan expansion pack is coming out ?

It is easy to be pro-war when that war is being fought by volunteers and the mainland is not being subject (with the exception of 9/11) to the horrors of war. The families of those doing the fighting are obviously affected, as are those that lost family members in the 9/11 attacks, but what about the average American ? Sure, they profess their pro-military position with bumper stickers and public pronouncements that they support our troops, they thank veterans for their service but when it comes to the actual heavy lifting they are noticeably absent. On one of our local radio stations, the morning conservative hosts crow about shooting Bin Laden and meting out justice as if they had fast roped into the compound in Pakistan during a station break- for all of their bravado, could they shoot somebody in the face ? One wonders.

As for Rashard Mendehnall, the kid was eviscerated by the same social media that spread his thoughts. Do I agree with him about his 9/11 conspiracy theories ? Nope. Does he have the right to say them ? Absolutely. Should he give up his career of carrying the rock for the Steelers and start a new one as a journalist ? Probably not. That being said, he seems like a spiritual young man that is asking some tough questions about death and killing that the average person doesn't want to look at. No matter, when he scores his first touchdown next season he will be forgiven by the masses- at least in this part of the country.

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