I wanted to weigh in on my experience at the celebrations in front of the White House, since it might be of interest to my friends who aren’t in D.C.
I live about ten blocks away, so as soon as I saw the first image of about 40 people gathered in front of the White House, I got caught up in the moment and was excited to see history in the making. (So Zeitgeisty!!) As I drove over, I passed small groups walking briskly, lots of bikers, and some people even running in the streets towards Pennsylvania Ave and 16th Street.
The atmosphere was wildly jubilant when I got there, with lots of chanting, singing, vuvuzelas, bubbles, sparklers and WOW a lot of cameras. Lots of us were clearly there to snap pics, tweet, and text our friends from the middle of the action. I saw Fox, NPR, RTL, and countless tiny news stations. I saw quite a few service men, one with a yarmulke somehow clinging to his buzzed hair. I saw David Arquette with a camera in his face and a crowd around him, right before he rushed off looking annoyed. There were also the really active revelers, some with booze on their breathe, most draped in flags of some sort. They were the ones starting chants, shouting, and singing. They had sparklers, Obama campaign signs, vuvuzelas, cigars, bubbles and beach balls.
People had a lot of emotion they didn’t know what to do with, especially the young people (I’d say 80% of the crowd was George Washington University students, more by the time I left around 1:45). And it’s understandable… It was kind of like hearing “Satan is dead!” to so many of us, perhaps especially to someone who has spent half of his or her life with Bin Laden as Public Enemy Number One.
So I don’t blame anyone for being excited. This means SOMETHING BIG, and everyone seems to understand that. And it seems like a step in the right direction, though of course we all realize that this does not mean terrorism or war is over.
A hardcore reveler
But I also saw things that made me cringe. Though I saw Star and Crescent flags and quite a few stars of David, I heard someone say “Death to the Middle East” (what does that even mean!?). I heard “Rot in hell.” And after just a few moments in the fray, I questioned my own presence there. Wasn’t this a bit tawdry, the frolicking and celebrating? Does any death merit jubilation, even if it is Satan? And does this meretricious display in any way honor the memory of the innumerable lives lost at the hands of al Qaeda?
The spontaneous celebrations were incredible to see and to share. Americans really reallyneeded some good news. I just hope we also do our best to remain thoughtful and ask critical questions.