Monday, May 2, 2011

Death of a Terrorist

Shouts of pride echoed long into the night. Hundreds of people ran out of their doors and crowded the city streets. Men and women draped American flags over their shoulders, singing the national anthem and chanting, "USA! USA! USA!" Headlines boasted, "We got him." "We win at last." "US nails the bastard." "Rot in hell." Broadcasters on every news outlet proclaimed it was "history in the making."

I watched news of Osama bin Laden's death explode through Facebook, through Twitter, through CNN and newspapers. Friends posted thoughts of civic pride, happiness, elation. Exclamation points abound. I started my car in the morning and was met with sounds of "America! Fuck Yeah!" - the famous national anthem from the satirical comedy Team America: World Police - on the local sports radio station. The magnitude of the news was overwhelming to just about everyone.

But that's why I write. In the midst of all this joy, this slobbery American love fest, this bubbling enthusiasm about witnessing history, I've never felt so unaffected by something in my life.

And when I say unaffected, that's precisely what I mean. Neutral. Indifferent. Sweden. Po-po-po-poker faced po-po-poker faced.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the importance of this news. Bin Laden was the spark that led our country to war. We wanted to find the man who not only orchestrated the biggest attack on American soil but was also the symbol for terrorism worldwide. He's been damned hard to find for nine years and his capture and death is considered a success for the military. I get that. His death could also strain foreign relations with particular countries and raise fears about the possibility of terrorist revenge. All of this is worth reporting, worth talking about, worth thinking about.

But compared to how I felt as a 13-year-old kid sitting in the middle-school cafeteria on Sept. 11, 2001, this doesn't fit. This news doesn't resonate on the same level as other momentous dates in American history, like Pearl Harbor or the JFK assassination. Maybe I'm ignorant to the significance - it wouldn't be the first time history and I have butted heads and gone our separate ways - but I just can't wrap my head around this nationwide fist-pumping for the death of a terrorist leader.

There are a lot of things that make me proud to be an American citizen. The freedoms to speak our minds and elect chosen leaders. The rights we are given at birth and the many organizations that fight to protect them. The fact that even in the face of intolerance, many people in our country accept and embrace new cultures. The ability to pursue a higher education and the people who are willing to help needy students afford it. The variety of opportunities available in this country, whether you want to fight fires, write a book, start a business, tend a garden, test video games, or even flip burgers at McDonald's. The fact that our country is a democracy and choice is the operative word makes me proud to live here.

There are plenty of ways to spin those things, compare America to other countries or take a turn to negative town, but that's not what I'm getting at. I just don't see a correlation between the news of bin Laden's death and the prideful reaction of the masses. It doesn't add up to me.

I'm not quite in the hippie crowd (How can you celebrate somebody's death, man?) because I understand the pride in winning a war and literally fighting for what's right. But I side more with the Gandhi crowd than any of the bleeding hearts beating their chests today, crowning America "Best Country In The World" all over again.

The news from last night is certainly part of American history; no doubt about that. But if the population wants to call it one of the country's defining moments and greatest successes, our priorities are fucked.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fun with Google and Presidents

Happy Presidents' Day! It's yet another of our nation's fake holidays that gives some people the day off and others the jealous impulse to punch those that get the day off. In spirit, I decided to do my civic duty by researching our founding fathers with the most advanced search technology we have at our fingertips today: Google Instant Search.

Google Instant Search is a tool that can lead you to where you're going in a fast, instantaneous way. It brings up the most popular searches of the letters you are typing as soon as you type them, which is great if you want to check the weather or movie showtimes in your area. Boom, it's there. Instantly. Sweet! But Google Instant Search also reveals our nation's stupidity. Our huge, pulsating stupidity that only gets worse as technology advances.

So here's what I did: I took every president's name and typed it into Google by phrasing it as a question. "Is (president's name) ...." and waited for my instant searches to pop up.

Several presidents with lackluster terms or unfortunately long names (I'm looking at you, William Henry Harrison) revealed nothing, except that our population rarely searches for them. But looking for a few of the notable presidents brought forth some hilarious, racist and damned homophobic results (click images to enlarge):

I wasn't shocked that Obama's ethnicity, moral core and sexual orientation were questioned, but it turned out to be a pretty interesting trend...



It seems like everybody looking for presidents wants to know two things: whether they're black and whether they're gay. We seriously need to start taking away the deep south's computer privileges.

But of course, there's still one president they'll never question...

He still might be black though...or one of those hippy vegan types. Daggum sunofabitch.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Writer's Anxiety

When it comes to this blog, it seems that you really shouldn't listen to anything I say. I promise consistent posts about the Red Wings and fall through after a few weeks; I promise running installments of stories and usually let those endeavors down after a single post, maybe two. It all comes down to the fact that when you write every day for a living, it's damned hard to want to do it in your free time. So take this first post in more than two months as a sign of things to come: I'm going to write here whenever I can muster the energy and have something to write about, two things that don't always happen together.

But tonight I catch myself thinking more and more about the upcoming insanity trial of Christopher Gribble, who has admitted to his role in the murder of Kimberly Cates and the near-fatal maiming of her 11-year-old daughter at the family's home in Mont Vernon - a 30 minute drive from Nashua - back in August 2009. The main villain in the case, Steven Spader, was convicted in November for the crime on his 19th birthday and received the gift of life in prison, plus another 76 years to life.

His cohort, Gribble, is 21 years old and has admitted his guilt. Now he's trying to plead insanity. I've been called on to cover his trial. Jury selection starts a week from tomorrow.

The case is brutal. Four teenage boys broke into a small-town home in the middle of the night and walked by the light of an iPod into the room of a sleeping woman, who they then proceeded to hack to death with a machete. The random nature of the crime, with a seeming lack of any motivation, compares chillingly with the story of In Cold Blood, a nonfiction book written by Truman Capote. And that's what scares me about covering this thing.

In Cold Blood is one of my favorite books. Capote is an incredible writer and he told a gruesome story in the most compelling way imaginable. But the story changed him, played with his emotions for years. I don't plan on writing a book about the Mont Vernon case, and I sure as hell don't plan on speaking with Gribble or Spader personally. But I fear that I'll see images I don't want to see and I'll hear stories I don't want to hear. I'll spend hours upon hours, day after day, in a courtroom where a man's sanity is called into question for a horrifying murder.

The pressure of the situation is a different fear - every news outlet in New England will be covering the trial and my stories will be on the front page for two weeks - and brings a different set of challenges. But those I know I can face. I know I can write front-page caliber for two weeks straight that rival those of other reporters. What I don't know is how my psyche will react to the appalling details of the murder or how I'll handle my emotions at the end of the day or if my stomach and my nerves will ever settle the same way they do now.

I know this is a unique opportunity for my writing career, and in some small ways I'm grateful for it. But all I hope for is to be the same person I've always been when it's all over. My vacation to Spain starts on March 11, when I'll finally be reunited with my amazing girlfriend right in the middle of her semester abroad. I can't wait for that day; I just hope I'm the same Cam when I jump into her arms.