U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

BY CHRIS STEINKE | MAY 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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At 9:30 p.m. in Iowa City, the bars were as empty as any given Sunday evening. One half hour later, throngs of people were crashing into the bar district, wearing flags around their necks, taking red, white and blue shots, and firing off fireworks.

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Osama bin Laden was dead, and the self-declared “peace-loving” community of Iowa City erupted in delight and decadence.

One could watch the news and see some version of the same thing on any college campus that was covered, communities that are supposed to be densely populated with rational, often liberal, thinkers. As soon as the news broke, anyone that is both politically aware and has a common sense realized that this did not mean the war on terror is over, that it did not negate 10 years of civilian and American deaths, and that it was nothing more than a strictly symbolic victory — which is why I think that Iowa City erupted, along with many other college campuses, because college kids (brace yourselves for this one) love to drink. Especially in a fit of spontaneous celebration.

“Spontaneous celebration” is not something typically connected with the war on terror, so maybe that’s part of it. When it was announced that President Obama was going make an unscheduled address the country, most were expecting the worst, because, well, that’s what we’ve come to associate with this war. It was a relief to celebrate our troops for once rather than mourn for them.

I did not partake in any of the festivities. I also think that someone’s death, however evil that person may be, is not a reason to celebrate.

But if I hadn’t had a 40-page portfolio due the next day, you bet your ass I would have taken out my “Proud American” T-shirt and sang “God Bless America” on the steps of the Old Capitol, because that sounds like a damn good time.

These celebrations were disgusting to lot of people, and for good reason. People were taking to the streets, waving flags, and honking horns just as some Palestinians did following the attacks of 9/11. You wouldn’t see very many, if any at all, family members of the 9/11 victims carousing in the streets the same way many college students did, and that’s because it inevitably evoked excruciating memories from their past. College students are typically between the ages of 18 and 22, and for most of us, that was too young to fully understand the effect and tragedy that happened nearly 10 years ago. That’s part of the reason we yelled, U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Does this make it all right for us to celebrate death, stooping near the level those that wish “Death to America”?

No, not at all. I’m not proud to say I would have gone out and drunk with the rest of them, but it would be false to say I would not have and hypocritical to judge anyone who did.

Also, let’s be clear: The majority of college students, I would say, were celebrating tongue-in-cheek. Do you think the reason people wore American flags around their necks was to express patriotism?

Or rather, were they attempting to caricature a red-blooded, Bush-loving, American who was legitimately reveling in another person’s death, who did believe this justified more than 4,500 American casualities since the start of the war?

Perhaps related, which do you think was quoted more on colleges campuses the night of May 1: The Declaration of Independence, or “Team America: World Police”?

I would answer the latter to both questions.

Again, this still does not justify it. I would be more proud of our community if we were to meet on the Pedestrian Mall and have a moment of silence for both the victims of 9/11 and the Americans and civilians who have died as a result of the ensuing war.

But in our defense, this was just as much a celebration of the success and dedication of our troops as it was anything else. Also, to offer a less excusable defense, there will be plenty of time for silence for the next two weeks; Sunday was the last day for many to celebrate anything, whether it be the weekend, the troops, the Bulls, or the death of the founder of Al Qaeda. So, please, allow me to be not the first one to say,

U.S.A.! U.S.A! U.S.A.!

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