Americans have become cynical and hostile toward our own political system in recent years. President Barack Obama is often spoken of as a tyrant by conservative talking heads like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and Tea Party officials and candidates often invoke allusions to armed rebellion to characterize the nature of their movement. To be fair, President George W. Bush was characterized as a totalitarian unleashing storm troopers in the name of security. Anything less than this kind of hyperbole is considered an endorsement of the opposing party in modern American politics.
I hope, however, that those who feel our system is broken and worthless took note of what has happened in Tripoli today. Our elected officials yield power to their duly elected successors peaceably. We may despise those officials, there may be doubts about the fairness of their elections, but we cannot deny that power is transient in the United States--as the framers of the Constitution intended.
There's a certain kind of person who fantasizes about armed rebellion. They stockpile assault weapons and interpret every news article as a sign that "the war is coming" in which they will need to lead an insurrection. Perhaps some day this may come to pass, but I see no rational justification for such fears today. I'm pretty liberal and there were aspects of the Bush administration that unnerved me (the PATRIOTAct, for instance) but I never felt that I was in danger of being rounded up for criticizing those policies. I learned to just keep quiet around certain people, just to avoid arguments, but that's a constant in life anyway. There are always going to be inflammatory topics to be avoided around certain people.
I watched the footage on CNN today, led by correspondent Sara Sidner in what should win her an award of some kind. At one point, she was visibly hit by shells from celebrants firing weapons, remarked on it...and kept reporting!
I fear that many will view this footage and find a sex appeal to today's raid and celebration. I applaud the Libyan people for standing up to Colonel Gadhafi, but I do not envy them having to do so. I'll take peaceful transitions of power following elections, thank you very much, even when my candidates don't win (which, as a liberal in Kentucky, happens often). We should cheer from a distance, but we should not wish this for ourselves.
As the world digested the implications of Tripoli, though, came a 5.9 earthquake in Mineral, Virginia. The shockwave was felt as far away as Toronto. Washington, D.C. freaked out; the Pentagon was evacuated and every five minutes I've heard one reporter or interviewee talk about immediately fearing that this shock was a terrorist attack. I'm sure part of this is only natural, given the deep trauma of September 11, 2001 but I also can't help wondering how much of this was the kind of overreaction one sees among the bored.
The Twitterverse wasted no time finding humor in the quake, though, and it's been a source of amusement almost from the instant the shock was first felt. Communications were affected at CNN, and Wolf Blitzer used a landline phone to share his report. My favorite tweet was from @joereid, which read:
Shit, y'all, Wolf Blitzer is on a PHONE WITH A CORD. That man will get you the information ANY WAY HE CAN.After watching Sara Sidner take a shell while covering the celebration in Tripoli, that joke made my day.
Of course, the major reason Twitter took to cracking jokes is that there still haven't been any reports of casualties and only scattered reports of injuries. I could craft an entire post of great joke tweets, but that's not why I'm discussing this incident. Rather, I hope that we can maintain some perspective. Today's earthquake was doubtlessly unnerving for many but it's really best described as a novelty given how little damage seems to have been reported. One interviewee in D.C. visiting from Chicago shared how she saw the wine rack swaying "dramatically."
I just hope that Americans realize that not having to stage or live through armed insurrections and watching wine racks sway are not bad things. Perspective, you know?