Monday, May 02, 2011

"...Hungry to feel good about something" --Brian Williams, MSNBC

That best sums up what I witnessed in lower Manhattan of the Americans spilling out into the streets chanting USA-USA-USA in celebration of the breaking news on bin Laden.

I'll set up the scene that led to me unexpectedly being amongst the midnight marauders @2am:

I was spending the evening with dear friends in Brooklyn pontificating the likelihood (or even unlikelihood) of certain things in recent history such as, say, did OJ actually do it? or did Michael actually bleach his skin? Age old questions to which we know the answers yet still debate ad naseum when amongst old friends and rum is involved... Someone happened to go online shortly after midnight and looked up saying, "Something on facebook saying that Osama bin Laden is dead??" and we all look up like, "What? nahhhhh..." but I opened the lap top to confirm what he was talking about. (I'll spare you the content of conversation that followed--ranging from "wow, dag, forreal?" to "you all believe anything they tell you, don't you???!!!!") We spent the next 30 mins being entertained by fb statuses and tweets supporting both opinions of this news. The general consensus, though, was a sobering "well, what does it all mean??" whether he died today or six months ago, or is still alive? Like, folks get it on the surface, but really...... what does it mean?

Anyway, I ended up getting home around 1am and my brother was sitting in the living room with his jacket and shoes on watching MSNBC. On the screen were the images; scores of people between Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House and Ground Zero in NYC flooding the streets in jubilation and victory... I wasn't aware that all of this was going on because we weren't watching the news on TV at my friends'. I thought about how the last time people have flooded the streets like this was when Obama was elected in Nov. 2008; on that evening I decided to stay home and watch the news as it unfolded from my bed instead of experience it out amongst the hustle and bustle of the people. So at 1:30am, I decided to get on the train and go out to Manhattan to check the scene... simple as that.

I arrived into the heart of American Patriotism at Ground Zero around 2am.

I witnessed first hand the chanting in creative variation...... the screams and hoots, the mass euphoria in the form of bursts of song... the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in unison. And the flags.... so many flags, stars and stripes, stripes and peace signs. Huge flags that could have been stolen from buildings...There was a brotha out hustling little $1 American flags. I said, "Brotha, WHERE you get those flags? WHY do you have so many of them this time of night?" He responded, "I knew this day was coming! You didn't?" Me: "No, actually, I didn't know this day was coming. Not today, not May 2nd 2011. I can definitely say that I did not." "Well, I did," he said, "You trying to get a flag?" "I'm good, brotha, thanks..." I continued forging through the throngs of people.

You definitely could tell who the family members of 9/11 victims were. They didn't just exercise euphoric patriotism; for them, this was a celebration of the lives of their loved ones more than anything else. More than vindication, it was a time to remember and reflect. Some people stood silent and said nothing, and you could only imagine what consumed their thoughts. There was a number of photographs and portraits accompanied by touching stories by family members. The Emerald Society of the NYPD played a haunting rendition of Amazing Grace on bagpipe while soldiers, FDNY (and goofballs) climbed the high street signs of Church and Vessey to lead the mass of folks below with more chanting. College boys sat on one another's shoulders and chanted ".....Nah nah nah naaahhhh, heeeeyyy heyyyy heyyyy, GOOD BYEEEEE" while party girls body surfed. New Yorkers were really holding the scene down...

There were two Hasidic Jewish men sharing a beer off to the side taking it all in. I asked what they thought of the whole thing, and one replied, "This is a good thing. After ten years, it's about time! This is good." I nodded, smiled and moved on. Waded through the crowd some more, read the signs, "WE CHEER FOR PEACE, NOT DEATH!" Saw a dread in a suit and stopped to ask what he thought about this whole thing? In his Trini accent, his sentiments were the same, "It's been ten years, people need something to celebrate, don't you think?" I kept wading through, and asked one more person what he thought, "It's amazing." That's all he said.

But, what exactly is amazing? I keep asking myself. I feel neither joyous patriotism that WE DID IT (no disrespect to Brotha President and his road to victory in 2012), nor do I express conspiracies that this is all a farce. But I do acknowledge that this latest development, the current event in US History unfolding, leaves me uneasy at best. Because, at the end of the day, I don't know what this, any of it, means, as an American, as a citizen of the World, as a human being, as a child of God. And as we all know, the TRUTHS of history are often buried along with the dead, or locked up amongst classified information, only to be dug up by scholars and historians decades, sometimes centuries later.

So, as for the celebrations, I have observed them merely for the sake of watching a piece of history unfold first hand (similar to inauguration day, I WAS there), whatever that history turns out to be. And I get that New Yorkers, if not Americans, but definitely those who were standing where I stood ten years ago, are feeling a burst of jubilee in retribution. For the celebration that was in tribute to the lives lost, I support that one hundred percent. For the hundreds of thousands who have lost lives as a result of this whole thing, from 09- through today, and beyond, I sympathize for the lost of life. I will not ignore that truth in the name of celebration.

Anyway, one thing is for certain; whether you keep living or you give up your life, we will definitely come to understand what this all means, one way or another.