We're Told To Pick a Side



"My poor generation / we're on for the ride / an ocean of choices / pulled out on the tide. / We're handed a beach ball, / and told to pick a side. / Drowned in information."

Moxy Fruvous, "My Poor Generation"

After I spoke with my friend and high school English teacher back in Baldwinsville, New York, I was more than a little shocked to hear one high-school student's reply after he had asked some of them how they felt about last week's terrorist acts. One student commented that though she had heard about the bombing a few hours earlier, she was already bored with the news.

This student may have only been parroting her parents' reaction to other media-covered events in the past, such as the O.J. Simpson murder trial, yet it is only a tragic reflection of our society that we frequently use our ability to quickly bounce back from tragedies such as these as an excuse for needless emotional apathy, as if Americans are all at such a distance from any real danger.

In an effort to squelch fear in the students of the high school, my friend went on to explain that after the tragedy on Tuesday, teachers were encouraged by the administration to tell kids not to worry, as nothing was going to happen to Baldwinsville. Televisions were not allowed in classrooms for purposes of showing the news to kids. In fact, if it weren't for a few teachers in the know about the bombing, the day might have continued with 'business as usual' for Baker High School.

It was only appropriate that my friend renamed Baldwinsville, in light of my hometown's general consensus in both the high-school's faculty and students, to "Bubbleville." What may seem unapparent, however, is the way many small towns, including our own fair Buffalo, are so similar, especially as reflected in the general reaction many have about the amount of information with which our media's floods us all daily.

Many of us have said, or at least heard phrases used, about this event being our Pearl Harbor. Though we are quick to comment in such a way, as it explains our current situation through am understandable simile, certainly this horrific act is unique unto itself, and cannot be viewed as simply another tragedy in a succession of others.

Part of this problem comes from our inability as a nation to sort through the facts and pedantics of the bombing, and even postpone plans for future reaction, in order to feel the raw emotion sparked by the bombing. If only as a nation we were to soak up what so many have felt about the death's of innocent people, and truly reach out to understand what is most significant through this all, we could grasp onto a resolution to this global crisis with greater ease.

However, the other half of the problem lies in the media's overzealous need to make sure every aspect of the tragedy, no matter how mundane or banal, is made known. I sympathize with those who would feel that way. However, I believe, too, that it is important as much information as possible be given to the public in order to assure that there is no confusion.

In an age where all information, incorrect or otherwise, travels literally as lightening to all corners in the world within seconds, it is necessary for us to hear as much as possible in order to be able to safely separate fictions from facts.

So often, however, that supreme state of analysis, which instantly occurs when any issue of international significance has arisen before, blinds us, and leaves us crippled with catchy phrases we all use to explain what is happening to us. Rather than decide from a personal perspective what is happening in the here-and-now, we turn to history to give us the answers.

Unfortunately, history has no answers this time. We are a part of history books to come, and we are writing them now with our reactions. Without emotions and passions about death as its own living, breathing tragedy, or even individual meditation on the direction our anger might lead us, we will be lost in that book as just another date and set of facts.

If anything is sacred in this country, let it be our ability to love ourselves and to react in genuine ways to that which stops us from living as we desire. Let our national tears flow when they overwhelm our ability to react to the powerful emotions we are dealing with. And, certainly, let all of this teach us - our poor generation - what it is to be human.