“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
— Abraham Lincoln
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Let’s face it. It’s been a fucked-up week, no?
From the Monday when our world was again shattered by a pair of bombs going off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, to the insane, crazy, not-made-for-TV, Hollywood manhunt that played out in front of our very eyes on Thursday and Friday, the week was full of emotions and confusion, tears turned to cheers, and Boston, for 24 hours following, held a place right above Heaven in the eyes of many.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Boston. Growing up in Maine, Boston was our only real city — sorry Bangor, sorry Portland, you can’t carry a true city’s tax burden — and all my journeys there brought forth nothing but great memories.
But if there is one thing I’ve noticed about every tragedy that has happened in our country, it’s the place where it has happened is brought into our national consciousness as a place that’s so special, it deserves special acclaim.
Pearl Harbor in 1942. Dallas in 1963. Oklahoma City in 1995. New York City in 2001. Boston, last Monday. And, let’s not forget, all those “it can’t happen here” moments from Littleton, Colo., to Newtown, Conn., times ten.
When tragedy happens our thoughts and prayers go out to where it happened, and rightfully so. Yet if there is one thing that has become so obvious through a lifetime of tragedy it is this: One place is no more special than the other, not from sea to shining sea, and that is what truly makes the United States of America so great. The people in New York and Boston have the same exact resolve as people in Littleton and Newtown.
Chicago? Los Angeles? San Francisco? Seattle? They are all major cities just waiting for something to happen and when it does our prayers and positive thoughts will be redirected in their direction because that’s what we do as a country. Your little town? My little town? Both hold the same potential for tragedy to come a calling, tearing apart our fabric of trust with the passing of each and every day.
If anything, all of the madness that has struck our country in my lifetime points to one obvious fact that I think everybody should embrace. No one place is better than another just because of what has happened there. Likewise, no one person is better than another, at least not at the core, because in a way we all are one. Not to sound Michael Jackson corny, but “We Are The World.”
At least that’s how I see things from my high horse.
Just last week I was told to “Get off my high horse” and this proved to be the second time in the last five years those words have been uttered about me — once by a man I respect a lot, the first time by somebody that I don’t.
My reaction was simple and swift: The only reason I’m up on this high horse is so I can look in the eyes of the ego-driven folk who uttered those words about me. One person, for the most part, uses his ego in positive ways that I think actually make things better, even though it can totally rub people the wrong way and, from time to time, almost gets his ass kicked. (Not by me, of course; I’m a liker, not a fighter).
But as I sat on my high horse, looking down on what an embarrassment the world of journalism had become on a national scale through its coverage of Boston’s week, I was reminded that the present day media world isn’t what it once was.
Once upon a time, it was ABC, CBS and NBC vs. the Associated Press and United Press International. Those were our news services and because there were only five of them, going head to head to head (to head to head), they could afford to take their time to make sure they got things right. One source wasn’t good enough. Two was do-able, but the digging rarely stopped there.
Today, our heads spin as we bounce around our cable dial, yearning to get the latest piece of news like we’re waiting for a plot twist in a movie . Even that’s too slow in the year 2013, so we turn to Twitter and Facebook and Reddit and Instagram for live updates and photos of what’s going on out in the world, with nary a concern about if any of it is right.
CNN didn’t intend to report wrong news, but was rushed into it by the thousands of other media outlets — some of whom reported the same news, forcing hundreds of others to be wrong, as well. I’m sure the New York Post didn’t intend to be so wrong by saying a dozen people were killed in the Boston bombing, and then running a photo of two “suspects” that were totally the wrong people. But, there again, they’re the New York Post so who knows that they’re thinking in their tabloid minds.
It’s a different world and we have to get used to it and quit pining for the good old days when we didn’t have to worry about stepping outside of the safety of our homes and dying so tragically, or being worried that our children could go outside and play and won’t be blown up by somebody with a grudge.
Last night, I had the pleasure of taking pictures of the legendary band Fleetwood Mac, a group that’s been around since the late 1960s. They certainly took me back with a couple of their songs, bringing back memories of my younger days when the world was different and seemingly far more innocent. But was it?
Imagine if the Internet had been around when Oswald (or others) pulled the trigger. Would Walter Cronkhite have taken off his glasses, paused so dramatically and told the world the President was dead. Or would the words “The Huffington Post is reporting the president is dead” been sent wirelessly around the world.
Imagine if Kent State students could have Tweeted what was happening on their campus on May 4, 1970.
We live in a different world that, at its core, isn’t all that different because of the people.
Some of us ride around on high horses, thinking they’re better than the common man. Others ride around on a high horse because they have to, as they try to keep up with the people around them. More still, perhaps, ride around on their high horses because the view appears to be better up there.
Right now, though, it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting. The view in 2013 is pretty God damned scary and it doesn’t take a fucked up week like the one just past to remind us of this.