Friday, May 13, 2011

Now I understand the chanting

Last Monday, I posted briefly about bin Ladin's demise and in that comment thread and elsewhere online, I expressed my distaste at the associated celebrations across America.

Then today, I listened to This American Life. At about the 8:30 mark in episode 434, a story unfolds about a boisterous and patriotic celebration over the bin Laden announcement at State College Pennsylvania.

One of the students, 20-year-old Lexi, spoke about the night of May 1, 2011 and the ten years that led up to it. She talked about being so afraid after 911. She was only 11 and was terrified by planes and flying for years.

As her interviewer points out, Lexi's entire cognizant life has unfurled under the cloud of war and terrorism. For Lexi's generation, the bogeyman was real.

"We all kind of carried that fear with us," says Lexi.

She talked about how bin Laden's death--while not exactly an endpoint--was an indicator that there finally could be an end. Hence the celebrations.

So Lexi, I apologize. I rushed to judgement. I didn't understand your point of view and how sweet and intoxicating the faintest scent of peace must be when you're just 20 years old and almost all you've known is an America held captive by a shadowy fear.

And I thank you, Lexi, because now I understand the chanting.

* * *


Bill said...

One Classy Woman, Erin!

jonas said...

I'm going to respectfully disagree here. Or at least offer a bit of nuance....

For the last 3 years, I've taught over 200 college students. And probably another hundred or so between 2004 and 2007. I think Lexi's view is not a majority view among this particular demographic.

While younger than you, EO...but well older than these kids, I've lived to see the winding down of the Cold War, the Challenger disaster, the rise of the AIDS crisis, plenty of terrorist attacks around the world, Katrina, oh, and 9/11. And so, like all of your readers--and you--we've lived with boogeymen our entire lives. In fact, there are book-loads of theory about how those are constantly created to give our society a sense of identity. But, that aside, I'm not buying her explanation as the predominant attitude among college-aged kids. I teach at a VERY prestigious institution. I teach engineering students = VERY bright, motivated kids...many of whom have right-leaning parents who work in gov't-related jobs. My sense from them is that they are no more afraid of this crap than the rest of us. These kids are as ambivalent and uniformed as kids ever have been...maybe more so. They believe themselves "politically active" because they sign petitions on Facebook, for fucksake. For them, if its not online or on the Daily Show, it didn't happen. They are goldfish, just like the rest of us.

Are there conscientious kids out there who think, care, and take these things seriously? Sure, of course. But holy hell, if you heard, saw, and experienced the things I do around the University of _________ (remember, VERY prestigious public U), you'd understand my skepticism. These kids want excuses to feel like they're a part of something. They want an excuse to yell at TV cameras. They want the ability to "claim" their part of history. Remember how the entire French nation was part of the Resistance...after the war? It’s not PC to say “eh…9/11 didn’t really affect me.”

I'm just saying, and I mean this both admirably and critically, for many...many people, life after 9/11 didn't actually change that much. Yes, I also changed ALOT for ALOT of people. But everyday life went on for many (most?) of us. American society, by in large, is anti-reflexive. We're designed to look forward, make the next dollar. That's both gross and beautiful. It's what gets us in wars abroad, and keeps us from war at home. We have no memory...or, very little. Yes, I know some will be offended because my characterization doesn't apply to them. But...look out the window, watch the news...tell me I'm wrong. We can wax philosophic about that it all means, but everyday life—broadly defined—has gone on rather regularly for the last decade.

So, while it might feel slightly redemptive to hear from one kid about why she’s cheering, I’m not ready to excuse them all. I see too much apathy and too much entitlement-based attitude to believe that greats swaths of these kids are actually thinking that much about the ways in which the world is working around them.

Call me cranky, cynical, or worse. Then, go spend some time at a college...

Bill said...

If 9/11 didn't change us, we're hopeless. You're over thinking it, Jonas. Pearl Harbor, 9/11. America attacked. No change? Really? Do you know how many young people, college age, joined up right after 9/11? You need to reassess, professor.

jonas said...

You know how many people sat on their asses and ate Cheetos?

We WANT people to be affected. Doesn't mean they were. Hell, doesn't even mean they SHOULD be. Especially if we're not even sure what that change would/could be.

Define change, Bill. Ten years of war later, thousands and thousands dead. Is that the kind of change you mean? American travel patterns dropped off a bit. But not for very long. People didn't shop as much...but we're certainly back at it. What, fundamentally, changed in this society? A little more airport security? Higher gas prices? Like I said, we're goldfish...and probably for the better.

And what did change after Pearl Harbor? Oh, thats right...we put a shitton of Japanese-Americans in prison camps. And today, hoards of Americans think there's something fundamentally wrong with Muslims. So, point taken...there's your change.

Yes Bill, many kids did join up. On the one hand, I'm thankful for that. I greatly respect our Armed Forces and those who serve. On the other, I'm not sure how comfortable any of us would be if we knew all the rationale behind why they joined.

Back to my point: I don't trust that any decent % of college-age kids' lives will be internally affected by all of this. Externally...sure...taxes, gas, war, etc. Oh, and maybe that kid who so proudly boasted that he wasn't studying for 2 of his finals because "we just killed bin Laden!" His life course might be irrevocably altered because of that brilliant choice.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Bill,

How many college aged young people joined up after 9/11?


P.S. I can appreciate the young woman's point of view in the piece, Erin's and Jonas's. It's a complex issue. Yet I personally identify with the comment..." we've lived with boogeymen our entire lives. In fact, there are book-loads of theory about how those are constantly created to give our society a sense of identity." I am a baby boom cold war kid. I grew up in the deep South. I been dodging nigger lovin commies or some variation thereof my entire life And to use Erin's phrase it was always a "shadowy fear." But shadows give way to light and it was only through passionate challenges to popular opinion by fearless iconoclasts that my fears were vanquished. Speak out young lady but then remain to listen to the feedback. Question Authority.

Anonymous said...

300 students give or take a hundred out of 14.8 million students. Numbers from WikiAnswers. Life is vastly different today than on 9/10/2001. While I am sure some just shrugged it off, the vast majority of Americans even those very young at that time realized life had just changed. While I didn't cheer, I can understand her point of view.

James Old Guy

Ms Amanda said...

Wow! Digging the comments today. What a great conversation.

Anonymous said...

Appendix A: Detailed Performance Metrics
DoD Performance and Accountability Report 366 Part 5: Appendix A – Detailed Performance Metrics
Performance Metric: Active Component end strength no more than 2%
over the fiscal year authorization (at the end of each quarter)
FY 2000
FY 2001
FY 2002
FY 2003
Army 482,170
Navy 373,193
Marine Corps 173,321
Air Force 355,654

Chart didn't print well at all but it's available at the DOD Website- Recruitment Performance Metrics.
According to the few reports I've read in the last 15 minutes there was a statistically insignificant increase in recruiting across all services.
What did increase, apparently, was recruitment in White Supremacist
(U) White Supremacist
Recruitment of Military
Personnel since 9/11.
7 July 2008
The Federal Bureau of Investigation.


jonas said...

Fiiiiine, use statistics against the aspiring sociologist...
You're point is well sample isn't ideal. But, until someone else wants to offer a different view of college kids, from their actual experiences, I'm sticking with mine.

"Life has changed..."
How? What is fundamentally different for HER (not us, but HER) now that bin Laden is dead? She's no longer afraid of planes? Ok, we all had irrational fears growing up. ALL OF US. And many of them were based on real events.

Listen, I didn't cheer either. I think my reaction was something to the effect of turning to my wife and saying "holy shit."

I know we want to put alot of faith in the youth. But lets be honest about it...we don't take them seriously until they've been around a bit longer. Sure, we wish people took US more seriously at that age. But, I for one am glad no one too me too seriously then.

Like I said...I'm sure she's honest and does feel the way she says. But the "us" to whom she refers shouldn't be so readily accorded that assumption.

Erin O'Brien said...

Baaaaad night to have my Internet on the fritz. It's blinking in and out, just so's y'all know I'm not ignoring you.

jonas said...

Thanks RJ.

There's a bloody TON of anecdotal/hearsay about what people did, feel, believe. Yes, ideologies and politics changes.

Show me a significant number of 18-22 yr olds for whom such things ever really matter, and then there's something to discuss (yes, I know Viet Nam Vets--and WWII vets) might cringe at that). But they're the exception, not the rule.

Please bear in mind, my point with all this is not that our society doesn't change when the world goes kooky around us. Of course things change. I'm simply saying that there were more thoughtless bandwagoners cheering about bin Laden than thoughtful, concerned folks.

Erin O'Brien said...

... holding hands over mouth while telling self don't bring up the Draft ... don't bring up the Draft ... don't bring up the Draft...

Anonymous said...

Off topic but applies to the region.

Great Documentary on PBS Show "Independent Lens" last night titled "Bhutto." Pretty sure you can find it online. Central figure was assassinated Pakistan PM Benazir but it gave a lengthy historical report on her family background and rise to power all the way back to the JF Kennedy administration. Included vintage footage of bin Laden as celebrated Mujahideen. Zig Brzezinski NS adviser to Carter on film telling Taliban fighters U.S. would return their country (Afghanistan) so they could "worship your God as you please." Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan looking away while Pakistan developed nuclear weapons capabillity because they (marginally) back U.S. in proxy war vs USSR.
Must see TV.


Kirk said...

I would have been much happier about Bin Laden's demise had we not had there not been all those other deaths--ours and the natives--in Iraq. Now some neocons are claiming we got Bin Ladin BECAUSE of the war in Iraq. They just won't quit while they're behind.

And Jonah, let's give that young woman Erin spoke of the benefit of a doubt. I was still in my 20s when the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down, and, yes, I was happy about it. Now, does that mean that before it ended I was sick with worry every day that either the Russians would take over or the world would go up in radioactive flames? No, I took the Cold War for granted, up to a point. But I still thought, and think, we were better off without a Cold War than with one. I'm just sorry we couldn't make a bigger dent in the Cold War infrastructure that was left behind. It's possible that young lady took the War on Terrorism for granted, up to a point, and was still happy when something happened--the death of Bin Laden--that may possibly signal the end of that war.

I have to say, I'm not all that optimistic that we're going to make any more of a dent in the War on Terrorism infrastructure then we did with the Cold War.

WV: minhjund--Sounds like that guy in Iran, huh?

Bill said...

Jonas said: "I'm simply saying that there were more thoughtless bandwagoners cheering about bin Laden than thoughtful, concerned folks."

Whatever their motive, they felt something and liked it. Thank God, thoughtful, concerened folks, and professors, haven't diminished their enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

We certainly wouldn't want to silence the thoughtless. Then you'd have no company right Bill? The old Zen thing about the sound of one hand clapping comes to mind.


Erin O'Brien said...

Manners please, gents.

Anonymous said...


"9/11. America attacked. No change? Really? Do you know how many young people, college age, joined up right after 9/11? You need to reassess, professor."

5:58 PM Bill

A declarative statement spoken as a voice of authority.

RJ and jonas call BS. Offer data that clearly invalidates the claim.

Bill: crickets.

"Whatever their motive, they felt something and liked it. Thank God, thoughtful, concerened folks, and professors, haven't diminished their enthusiasm."

Sounds like a slam on jonas to me. Only person here that has identified as a professor.

Bill is a troll. He makes nebulous claims and unsubstantiated statements just to be a contrarian.

If that's impolite ban me.


Erin O'Brien said...

Nobody's banning anyone. I'm just being my regular den mother self.

Bill said...

RJ: I'm having a conversation. You're having a debate. I really don't care if you think I'm a troll, or thoughtless, or contrary or an asshole. Makes no difference to me. I'm not offended or effected in any way by your comments although I do read them and try to make sense of them. I sort of enjoy listening to people that are very full of themselves. It's a form of entertainment. Besides, nothing good on tv right now and it's still about 20 minutes till American Idol. lol. Have fun with that one. Go Scotty!

Bill said...

Hey! Scotty's song was topic appropriate!

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)"

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

jonas said...

Bill, there's nothing wrong with enthusiasm, per se. But I think Erin's initial concern for people's enthusiasm re: OBL's death should raise a concern or two.

I have no reason nor desire to stifle enthusiasm. Rather, I have the desire to help young adults see past the narratives they were fed as kids. That, in no small way, is what I consider to be my job.

Let me put it simply: shouldn't we be concerned about kids cheering an assassination?

What should we think their vision of that last 10 years looks like? Think of the media shit they've had to digest for 10 years! Sure, she was scared of planes. Alot of people were. Ask the passengers on the plane that somehow got a pilot to remove 2 Muslim men. I get that people were and have been scared. But there's perception, and there's reality. Not sure, given the nature of media and society that we can actually know anything resembling an objective reality anymore. So, what should be take more seriously: her 10 years of media/society-created fear, or her cheering of OLB death, fed by that fear? I think in either case, we've dug ourselves a nice hole. Either way, we should take neither at face value.

Mind you, I ask this as someone who, like the President, doesn't have much problem that it happened. So, mine isn't an ideological position, in so far as OBL is concerned. He rightly earned his rendez-vous with SEAL Team 6.

And Kirk: -h, +s

jonas said...

Damnit, this this just ate my last post.

Bill, enthusiasm is fine. But are we really ok with enthusiasm for an assassination? Sure she and many others lives in fear for the last 10 years. A media-created and defined fear. I think we should be more critical view (that is, take a deeper look) of any opinion about OBL and the wars, given the media circus that's fed off our emotions.

As a teacher, my job--my most important job--is to help kids think through and beyond the narratives that defined their lives to that point. That's not to say they should be rejecting them...just knowing about the bigger world out there. So no, I have no reason nor desire to stifle enthusiasm. But we damn well should be smart enough to interrogate that enthusiasm. Virtually nothing about the last 10 years should be taken at face value. We need to be smarter than that. I don't mean that in some sort of conspiracy-theory way. I mean that is we want actual progress...if we want positive change, we need to be much more reflexive, much more thoughtful, and be willing to admit that we can, and need to do better.

And no, I have no problem with the events of last week. OLB's rendezvous with SEAL Team 6 was well-earned.

And Kirk: -h, +s

Vince said...

You bunch of old codgers. Do you not remember what it was like at 20.
And on that tack, if I park a keg or three on a lawn I could have 200 students tackled up to a megalith and have them drag it about for sport. 20 yo's are a function of the sum of their number. That's why every army in the world signs them up.
Students on the piss are no greater indicator of anything beyond the opinion stated in the time it takes them to state it.

Erin O'Brien said...

Sorry about the spam filter, Jonas. Unfortunately, I can't adjust the settings and get no notifications when it censors something. I do my best to stay on top of it.

Bill said...

Jonas: Maybe a Junior College is more representative of the real world. Most people celebrated getting OBL. That's a good thing.

(note: no part of this comment was googled, wiki leak checked, or otherwise researched. just an opinion by the commentor)

Contrary Guy said...

gotta say, I'm with Vince on this one. Rest of the thread: tl;dr.

Leslie Morgan said...

You know, this exhausted me yesterday and it's exhausting me this morning. Erin, if Lexi, the individual, was so traumatized by 9-11, then I am empathetic. I doubt she represents many young people in similar circumstances and I think Jonas points that out beautifully. The first thing I thought about was "where were Lexi's keepers?" during her 10 years of trauma. My daughter is the same age. I promise you she has not stumbled around uninformed OR terrified. Vince hits the nail on the head: we can easily incite 20-year-olds to support (or at least scream about) any cause until they're distracted. They're easily led. Typically, like a pillow, they reflect the last impression made upon them by a real head. RJ, tip of the hat for using your intellect, offering data, remaining cooler than I would have. Your use of the word "contrarian" is delightful. When I get heated, I often leave such words behind and call people "shit disturbers" if that is what they appear to be. Old union term for those who make provocative statements and enjoy watching the fallout, just as Bill acknowledges that he does - no wonder he enjoys "listening to people that are very full of themselves". It must be like looking into a mirror. I'm with you, Kirk, for finding some clarity of mind and stability somewhere in the middle ground.

Bill, you show us frequently that you failed to Google, WikiLeak or otherwise research most topics. And if I walked past a TV in my home that was spewing that schmaltzy song, I'd kick in the screen.

jonas said...

EO, no worries. Didn't assume you were filtering, but the system didn't autopost my responses, that's all.

Bill: "Most people celebrated...thats a good thing". Can you elaborate? What makes that a good thing? Remember how offended we, as Americans, we told we should have been when we saw footage of people in various parts of the world cheering at the news of 9/11? Remember? How is this any different? Is it not completely hypocritical? Shouldn't that concern us, just a bit?

Vince, you make the point better than I did: what do we think the likelihood is that the same kids cheer of OBL's death are also the same that would protest war or the government on any other day? The "convictions" of college students are, by in large, fleeting. That's not good, nor bad. It just is.

I've probably said enough on all of this. Sorry to drag it out.

Bill said...

Leslie: 20 year olds are putting their lives on the line, bravely, every day for this country. Younger kids are affected by what's happening in their country, particularly when it's attacked by terrorists. But, hey, it's great that you were able to convince yours that it's no big deal. Can't understand why this thread would exhaust you. Get some sleep and don't kick the TV. RJ probably has some suggestions for some NPR programming that will soothe you. In the mean time, thanks, everyone for all the kind words. And, Erin; I still think it was pretty classy that you took another look at the celebration thing.

Leslie Morgan said...

@ Bill - Ah, Sir, once again you speak from your ass. You don't know anything about my daughter. I can tell you that "convincing" her of anything is a hard row to hoe. And the notion that you can twist this "I promise you she has not stumbled around uninformed OR terrified." into this "But, hey, it's great that you were able to convince yours that it's no big deal." might lead one to conclude you'd make a great conjurer or pretzel maker. I'm sure you can't understand why this thread would exhaust me or anyone else. It's not within your ken. I thank you for the grand advice to get some sleep and not kick the TV. I'll run out and do/not do those things right now, knowing you've got your finger on the pulse of all that's right in the world and will advise me of such when I wake up.

Anonymous said...

"RJ: I'm having a conversation. You're having a debate. I really don't care if you think I'm a troll, or thoughtless, or contrary or an asshole."-Bill
What a convenient rationalization. First, it never occured to me that my words would affect you in any way. Second, I thought these dialogues were carried on to gain clarity on issues. I am aware there is a demographic within the American political public that has no need for evidence. That is why Tom Tancredo can go on Fox News and call Obama a "Dedicated Marxist" or that Sean Hannity can claim BHO is "Returning to his Radical Roots" by inviting a rapper to perform at the White House without offering any objective data to suppot their claims and their viewers will accept it as gospel. However, I don't think that kind of "conversation" improves understanding or makes America a better place to live. Ergo, I object.
BTW, Pooh told me 9/11 was a result of Christopher Robin being unhappy in the 100 Acre Wood. I'm glad he cleared that up.


Al The Retired Army Guy said...

I don't have much to add on the celebration/non-celebration of OBL's death by college students or anyone else for that matter. As to college students themselves ....

I agree with Jonas that most will cheer/protest just about anything until otherwise distracted. As a teaching intern during my culinary education, I saw a lot of this - a lack of focus and critical thinking. I also saw a lot of the "entitlement mentality," e.g., I showed up so I should get an A for the day kind of thinking.

I don't know why this is, but I'm sure there are lots of sources that may explain it. However, I'll proffer at least one theory (totally my own, BTW).

Today's students are bombarded with information, often instantaneously. They get it from multiple sources (TV, Radio, Internet, text messaging, etc.), and it's been this way for most of their lives. It should come as no surprise that they're easily distracted - every few minutes a new bit of information, a picture, a video pops up and young folks act like they're passing the scene of an accident - the immediately turn their gaze to it. It comes as no surprise to me, then, why they're so easily led to protest/support/celebrate the cause of the day.

Back in my college years, computers were a relatively new thing. We didn't have the internet yet (well, we did, but not many of us had access). We were forced to take the time to research something, often involving reading actual books, papers, etc. Videos/Audio were actual tapes in a lot of cases (CDs hadn't really taken off yet). In other words, more physical effort had to take place for us to learn about issues and concerns of the day. Today, it is instantaneous - a click of the mouse away. It is both a good and bad thing, I think - good in that we can access information immediately, bad in that some folks substitute that access for critical thinking.

Anyway, that's my two cents for what it's worth.


P.S. @ Erin - you must try the Sausage Shoppe at 4150 Memphis Road in Cleveland. Was there yesterday - incredible sausages, pate, bacon, cottage hams, smokies, etc. All made on site. Check it out at It rocks.

Harry Finch said...

This is what happens when you provide a rational explanation for irrational behavior.

As a rule, celebrating assassinations is very poor policy, not to mention manners. And there is the very real danger that extolling even one government-sponsored murder will become habit-forming.

But sometimes you come across that once-in-a-lifetime exception.

I was surprised by my reaction to the Bin Laden assassination. I never would have predicted the news would produce elation.

I’m an old liberal fart with pretensions to level-headedness and usually suspicious of presidents when they start doing that Commander-in-Chief thing. I don’t have a history of sailing into the clouds when they act decisively and successfully (maybe I don’t have much experience when it’s both).

Elation is exactly what I felt.

I didn’t rush into the street chanting U-S-A, but I did celebrate (that’s right Jonas: it involved calling up several people for a dial-a-drink and making toasts – I even did a little jig for my wife).

The sick man that wakes one morning feeling a touch better wants to celebrate, even if it’s not a sure sign of his recovery or in his long-term best interest.

OSL blew a huge hole in this country. Killing him may have healed only a tiny bit of the edge of that hole, but that miniscule improvement felt really good. As soon as I heard the news, I was with the kids: I partied.

jonas said...

Again, there is (or, should be) a significant difference between how a middle-aged man and a 20 yr old college kids reacts to such things. What she knows of life and what you know of life should make the interpretation of such events different, in very important ways.

Listen, I'm suuuuper happy Lexi feels better. Gosh, I really am. The reality is, according to what we've been told, OBL wasn't so much running the show anymore. So his death, while apparently of GREAT symbolic significance to the scores of engaged, deep-thinking 20 yrs olds of the world, appears to likely do little in the War on Terrorism. Perhaps, it might make it worse for a while. A good deal of what fuels terrorism seems to be how America/ns are perceived around the world, however inaccurately. Perhaps thousands of people cheering for yet another Muslim death (right or wrong, people looked up to the guy, as a devout Muslim) doesn't help our cause any.

Maybe, just maybe, cheering isn't in our best interests. Maybe just maybe, Lexi doesn't quite see the big picture. Maybe, just maybe, her rationale for being scared was further legitimized by her and all her friends out on the street.

You know who cheers in the streets for death? Mobs of angry people in places where things go BOOM with regularity. Why, in the name of all that is decent, should we be ok mirroring that behavior?

Big Mark 243 said...

This is sooo deep! You have the best followers who leave really thoughtful and deep comments... and you are a moderator on par with Jim Lehrer..!

Erin O'Brien said...

Jonas, I wholly respect your comments. After all, you are around these kids all the time and you know what you're talking about.

That said, my post was based on that one segment of This American Life. I found Lexi's comments evocative and enlightening, hence my post. It was not meant to be an endorsement of the "U. S. A" chants. I still find the idea of celebrating a death distasteful to say the least, but after listening to Lexi, I felt I understood the "elation" a little better.

I'm sure there's all kinds of kids out there with different motivations. Mostly, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Erin O'Brien said...

Aw Harry, are you really back? Really?


Bill said...

Hey Leslie. You're the one who used her daughter as an example of a young person not bothered by 9/11. I didn't twist anything or imply that I know her. Don't get your panties in a knot.

RJ: I assumed that you insult me for a reason. If not. OK. BTW, don't you ever just talk about things? You know, like, off the top of your head?

Erin O'Brien said...

There were more than 40 provocative comments on this post that met their demise during the Giant Blogger Outage of 2011.

I'm terribly sorry about that and appreciate every comment left on this blog both past and future.

John Venlet said...

Dang, Erin, the comment thread was provocative. I'm bummed its lost in cyberspace too.

Erin O'Brien said...

Here's a VERY crude recreation of the thread.

Anonymous said...


Summer school, and jumbo shrimp, of course.
Friendly fire, famous poet, common sense,
and, until very recently, safe sex.
Blind date, sure thing, amicable divorce.

Also there's loyal opposition,
social security, deliberate speed.
How about dysfunctional family?
Eyes blackened, hearts crushed, the damn thing functions.

Some things we say should coat our tongues with ash.
Drug-Free School Zone? No way: it's our money
our children toke, snort and shoot up while we
vote against higher property taxes.

Want a one-word oxymoron? Prepay.
Money's—forgive me—rich in such mischief:
trust officer, debt service, common thief—
these phrases all want to have it both ways

and sag at the middle like decrepit beds.
Religious freedom—doesn't that sound good?
And some assisted living when we're old
and in our cryptic dreams the many dead

swirl like a fitful snow. We'll wake and not
think of our living wills or property.
We'll want some breakfast. Our memories
will be our real estate, all that we've got.

"Oxymorons" by William Matthews, from Search Party: Collected Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (sort of)


Mrs. C said...

This had housed a wonderful sequence of comments, and I copntyinue to think on them in an effort to conserve them from the aether.

My WV is "elipt," which rather sounds like what happened to the goodness that was here (and on my sitre, as well--my kids were FREAKING OUT!)

swine said...

who created the "bogeymen?" who funded them? who always creates and funds them? it's all traced back to corporations which profit off ongoing wars. these kids who so (sometimes) eloquently speak of "the bogeyman" are the same go patronize the big corpos like Mickey-Ds, or eat shit tainted by Monsanto. the line always ends with them. kids are nice to listen to and sometimes they sound all motivating and shit, but overall it's a crappy tragedy all around. frankly, I'm surprised they let this cat out of the bag; the "hunt for Bin Laden" was going to go on forever--I thought. Eastasia is always at war with Eurasia and all that Orwellian stuff, ya see.