I’m still half asleep and haven’t quite formulated my thoughts but I wanted to share something from last night’s Nashville Predators game.
When an announcement was made midway through the game congratulating the Navy Seals "for the events this week," the arena went nuts, cheering and clapping and shouting. Earlier in the game there was a gag on the Megatron featuring our team mascot intercut with scenes from "Top Gun" and bin Laden's face in gun sights; again, the arena went nuts. People waved the American flag and chanted "USA! USA!", which I've never seen before at one of our hockey games. Of course, we played the Vancouver Canucks but still, we’ve played Canadian teams before and I’ve never seen such a vocal expression of patriotism.
I guess I hadn't realized how deeply the country needed this until I experienced that crowd reaction. There was no partisanship, no "ha ha suckaz, Obama did this" or "Democrats this, Republicans that," it was "America got him." Getting bin Laden was a “win” that was a huge boost for the country, psychologically speaking. It was a taste of that unity Glenn Beck claimed he wanted, and which those same fringe righties seem unable to participate in now. Which I find very telling: if you hate President Obama so much that you can’t be happy for the country now that the mastermind of 9/11 was brought to justice, then that tells us everything we need to know about you.
I don’t know what’s been happening at other sporting events around the country this week, and I’d be interested in hearing if there’s been a similar reaction to what I saw in Nashville last night. Nashville is close to Ft. Campbell, and the hockey team has a military outreach bringing lots of Ft. Campbell families to each game, so we might have seen something others didn’t. It’s important to remember that thousands of people joined up for military service in the wake of 9/11 for the express purpose of capturing bin Laden: not to protect oil shipping lanes, not to bring democracy to Iraq or Afghanistan, but to catch the people responsible for 9/11. This was their “Mission Accomplished” moment.
I think sometimes we forget the deep and lasting impact of 9/11 on the American psyche. The bickering, partisanship and gridlock of the past 10 years may have been there anyway, but coupled with the national hit to the ego that was a deadly attack on American soil, it allowed some of our uglier tendencies to emerge. I’m thinking of the fearmongering, the Islamophobia, even the homophobia, as ordinary people wrestled with the idea of an America the vulnerable. Coupled with all of the other changes in our society -- a shrinking middle class, wage stagnation, technological changes, cultural changes like marriage equality and increasing racial diversity -- and the result is a lot psychological instability for a country of 300 million people. We might have been able to handle the cultural and social changes but add an attack in there too and no wonder we went a little nuts.
Anyway, as I said, I’m still just hashing around some ideas. But I thought that was interesting.