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Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

The 9/11 Tribute In Light

I was about to turn off my computer late Sunday night after resting my eyeballs on some mindless TV when all of a sudden, a quick scan of the New York Times shook my peace and ruined my planned sleep. Bin Laden dead. Bin Laden killed. He’s bin terminated. He’s a has Bin. He’s bin there done that.

The Upper East Side, the sleepiest part of the city that never sleeps, had already gone to bed. Two hours after the announcement, I’m still looking out the window on my beautiful city and its always changing landscape and seeing no gathering of people. The local ABC affiliate immediately ran out to Times Square after the announcement and the reporter gushed that it was filling up with people. Behind her, trash blew around in the deserted sidewalks. I highly recommend this clip to the producers of “The Soup” and perhaps Columbia Journalism School graduates who want to learn how to avoid embarrassing themselves.

But put aside the levity and let’s attack the meat of the matter:  The man who slaughtered almost 3000 innocent Americans 10 years ago is dead. The man who was willing to exploit American power for his own ends in Afghanistan until he decided he’d rather murder American civilians to impress psychopathic Islamic fundamentalists–is gone. The man who evaded capture for 10 years and told us what his real aim was–the restoration of the caliphate along the lines of the repressive Taliban, is obliterated.

I am one of those people who has never believed in the concept of closure, whether it’s political, spiritual or even romantic. People love closure the way they like crack–they promise this time is always the last time, and yet they always seem to want more of it after it’s over. So when my wife said to me tonight, as we watched the updates on ABC, that this entire thing felt anticlimactic, I knew exactly what she meant.

It feels that way for several reasons. One, the war is not over. Al Qaeda, what started out as an agreement over a table a couple of decades ago among a few rogue military leaders, one of whose rules was to have good manners, has metastasized into several networks with different leaders all vying for prestige and leadership over a restive culture of America-haters. Two, the relatively bloodless dispatch of Bin Laden in a raid on his compound in Pakistan reminds us of something we have all forgotten: He was just a man. He was not a God. He was not a country. He was not even much of an army. One of the biggest tragedies of 9/11 is that it showed us how a relatively small group of people can cause so much harm. We were attacked by a club, a mafia even, and the justice meted out was never going to compensate emotionally for the pain inflicted. It’s for similar reasons that we can’t accept the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald may have acted alone: How can one puny, limited, brutish person cause so many hopeful people so much grief? It’s for denial of that reality that America inevitably overreacted to 9/11 by invading not one but two countries, one of which had nothing to do with the attack.

The next reason it feels anticlimactic is that we will never get back the people we loved that day. As President Obama said, children are still missing fathers, husbands missing wives. Friends missing friends. The death of one man can’t make up for the pain of that either.

And finally, the reason bin Laden’s death feels anticlimactic is that we waited so horribly long for the day to arrive. For ten years, we had to live with the idea that the man who openly admitted to plotting the destruction of the World Trade Center was indeed sitting somewhere exactly where we imagined him–not in a cave fighting hand to hand but in a comfortable compound in Pakistan, in the nurturing bosom of friendly Pakistanis–drawing ten more years of breath. That was 10 years for many of us to get comfortable with some uncomfortable ideas–that life isn’t fair. That a mass murderer might indeed go unpunished. When George Bush announced at one point that bin Laden had been marginalized and was no longer a big deal, you might have read it the same way I did: He was practically promising that this account would not be reckoned. Now the mass murderer is indeed gone, but the uncomfortable idea remains. What if there had been no tip off last August? What if bin Laden had lived to a ripe old age? It was entirely possible. There were lots of Nazis, after all, who died peaceful deaths after spreading out to the four corners.

I think about this as I look at many of the faces gathering in Washington and Lower Manhattan on television. Many of them are young adults. A lot of them seem to have even been children in 2001. For them, 9/11 was likely the single most important political and philosophical experience of their lives, the event that forged their characters and their morality. It would be much harder for them to live the last 10 years with the same existential unease–that an evildoer would prevail. It doesn’t matter whether they lived in New York City and watched the World Trade Center smash into the ground (as I did) or whether they are willing to put the events in some sort of historical context (which I try to do, as painful as it can sometimes be). For them, bin Laden simply couldn’t be walking about freely in a moral universe. He had to go. I felt that way at one time. I was 31 on Sept. 11 in 2001 and the attack drove me to a despair I’d rather not describe. I had a hard time sleeping for a long time and the sound of planes gave me the creeps. For a few months, many New Yorkers lived with a grim, almost mordant pessimism that the end was near. But my hatred for bin Laden and my desire to see his lifeless corpse dragged through the streets behind a chariot yielded after a while. That kind of hatred did me no good.

But anticlimax or not, we’re still fighting a couple of wars (though Iraq is winding down). And probably the most important question raised by Osama bin Laden’s death is now this: Why are we over there? Osama bin Laden was for so long the answer to that question that you needed little other. But now the palimpsest has been erased. The central premise of our wars overseas has been removed. Though we might still be fighting networks that mean to harm America, we’ve now reached the point in which we remain present only to fight those who fight against our presence. The idea of Afghanistan slipping back into a Taliban-ruled violent, repressive theocracy is repugnant, but so are the accidental killings of civilians and the razing of towns by American forces and the funneling of American money into the pockets of Taliban leaders through public works projects. Now is the time to save face and ask if it’s time to leave. Barack Obama can have his own “Mission Accomplished” moment if he likes. It’s no sin to bug out if what we’re doing in Afghanistan is counterproductive and we got what we came for.

But I’ll sign off with this thought–I’m proud of my country tonight. As I was about to drag my sorry ass to bed, part of me wanted to throw on my clothes and go downtown at 2 in the morning to cheer with my fellow New Yorkers the removal of Osama bin Laden and his hatred from this planet. There is a narrow, joyless view that everything America does it does Energizer Bunny-like for money and oil. Sometimes, it happens, I’m sure. But a more expansive view might allow that Americans have altruism in them and that there is a goodness in us that is worth protecting. Naive perhaps, sometimes, about their own role in the world. But definitely capable of good.

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If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new ways to get people to visit your blog. It’s fun to create a community and get people talking about the important subjects of the day.

But many people are unsure how to get their blog seen and make sure their voices are getting heard. That’s where it’s helpful to know a few tricks of the blogging trade.

The secret is tags. These are the subject words that people search for–the things they are most interested in, and the items they plug into popular Web browsers like Google and Yahoo and Bing.

And the biggest secret of all is that you have to use the tag word “kittens” at all times, no matter what you’re talking about.

Let’s say that you’ve just done an excellent blog post on the state of the stock market. As we all know, it’s been a tough year. Stocks plummeted last September, and the American economy is largely thought to be in a tailspin because of the antics of a few no-goodniks such as those who sold bad mortgages and tried to palm off the bad debt on insurance companies and investment banks. Let’s say you’ve got a Nobel prize on the subject and you really want to get the word out that people were not paying attention to the market’s systemic risk when they looked for 10% annualized returns. You are biting your nails, because you are the only person you think in the world who understands that the algorithms just aren’t taking into account all the stochiastic random elements that cause markets to collapse. You worry that portfolios will be smashed and retirees rendered homeless.

Now say that out loud. You sound pretty dull, don’t you? Would you want to read that yourself? Probably not. It’s OK to laugh. We’ve all sounded like a self-important asshole at some time or another.

But that’s OK; fear not.

All you have to do is turn it all it around! If you had just added the word “kittens” to your tag, you’d have millions of people at your doorstep just dying to hear all about your dry “systemic risk” stuff.

Try this instead when you’re tagging: “derivatives,” “Lehman Brothers,” “Paulson,” “Goldman Sachs,” “conflict of interest,” “kittens,” “kitten in box,” “kittens with yarn.”

Or maybe you’ve got questions about the current health care plan in Congress, House Bill 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. Now health care is a confusing topic. Maybe you are a patient who has no insurance. Maybe you’re a doctor who is worried about out-of-control legal costs. Maybe you’re worried that too much government intervention would distort rational, efficient pricing of health goods and services. Perhaps you find it immoral that America is rated 37 on the World Health Organziation’s chart of best health care because of our lack of services to the impoverished.

Well, that’s all well and good, but … is that all you’ve got? Really? Is that your pitch? Where’s the hook? Where’s the sizzle that sells the steak? How do you ever think you’re going to fish in the kind of readership you want with a lot of fancy words that go over people’s heads? Aren’t you talking up your own wazoo a little bit here?

Try this on for size, and add these tags: “health care,” “Obama,” “socialism,” “kittens,” “Momma,” “meow.”

Why, before you know it, you’ll have millions of people coming to your blog to hear what your problems are with the new 1,000 word health care bill, or maybe they’ll just be looking for your kitten videos. You can offer them one or both. It doesn’t matter! All that matters is that you’ve engaged your potential readership with language they can understand and you’ve brought them important information on a topic that will be important to them in the future, if not right this second.

After all, most people are only thinking about what’s going on this second. The future is a scary place! Would you want to live there? No! In the future, we’re all dead. But right now, in this moment, we have to enjoy the little things, and what we enjoy most is bright, furry, cuddly, fuzzy felines.

Perhaps you have been following the latest gossip about Pakistan and its unsecure nuclear weapons installations, which are dangerously close to the front lines in a war against fundamentalist Muslim Taliban militants who have already begun making strikes against nuclear labs, perhaps in an effort to steal technology. You may have spent your entire life in the intelligence community and know more about the real dangers than almost anyone else. You spend so much time thinking about nuclear Holocaust that you can’t sleep and it’s making you crazy in a way that literally changes the color of your urine.

But in the end, doesn’t that make you kind of a smarmy know-it-all? I mean, if you’re going to bring passionate, thoughtful national security items to the forefront of our dialogue, you’ve got to know how to speak the language of everyday folk. And what could be more heartwarming than pictures of kittens nursing at mama cat’s milk-swollen belly?

Don’t believe me? Try these tags and get results: “Pakistan,” and “nuclear facilities,” “Wiki Maps,” “Taliban,” “nuclear stockpiles,” “rogue states,” “black market,” “terrorist groups,” “kittens,” “nursing,” “meow, meow,” “vomit,” “hairball,” “poop,” “Roomba fight,” “vacuum cleaner.”

See, aren’t you already starting to see how the right kind of tagging will get your blog instant validation and notoriety?

People love kittens with great passion–almost as much as they hate the threat of nuclear annihilation. What you’ve got to do as a blogger is pick up on the topics of the day if you want to become a tastemaker, a pace setter and a thought leader. But you’ll never get there if you don’t learn the tricks of the Web world. So stop sucking your thumb and start thinking like a Web champion.

Don’t think in abstractions your whole life, think in fun, vibrant tags, whether it be “cat,” or “kitten,” or even “warm pussy.” And soon you’ll be getting the drift.

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(Originally posted Oct. 2, 2007)

* Control freak seeks mealy mouthed submissive to be human ashtray and whipping boy. Clean my house a plus.

* Republican country club member seeking beard marriage with handsome Republican lady who is pragmatic and knows how to keep her mouth shut.

* James Joyce aficionado seeks Molly Bloom type to be both an abusive fishwife and a really disgusting pig in bed.

* Whippit fiend needing money and a friend. You bring the huff, I’ll bring the baby.

* Swinging couple from Brooklyn looking to share 420 and our bodies with a square, uptight and clean couple from a plains state such as Kansas, Nebraska or South Dakota. Drive us to Vermont a plus.

* Midwestern goy-boy seeks a woman who is some combination of all the female characters in “Fiddler On the Roof,” including and especially the mother. I am naturally lazy, but hoping you can motivate me. Will convert if necessary.

* DC intern looking to sleep with a member of Congress so I can publish a book before I’m 21. I come from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, attended Brown, have connections to the Forbes Top 100, and have an amazing body with a particularly large set of knobs. Love a man with gray hair and a whiff of condescension. Like dad.

* Really screwed up plumpish girl with body issues seeks a brutish man who can guide her through the twists and turns of the adult film industry. Am allergic to cats.

* Orange County plastic surgery addict is on husband number five and wanting to set up my next marriage now before I start to look like a work of taxidermy.

* Hyper intelligent young female lawyer tired of being the funny one and now seeking a hot guy to make me feel like a whole woman finally and be an accoutrement to my idea of success. I don’t care if you make less money than I do, just get here fast, so that I stop feeling this strange temptation to join the hookers that I now represent pro bono.

* Lesbian cop seeks flighty, confused housewife to work through what might be your homosexuality, and if it isn’t, to have fun just the same. I have tools.

* Houston oil widow looking for a man with a jet to sweep me off my feet and trick me into the illusion of love just one more time. Must love eight yapping Pomeranians and an emu.

* Atlantic City hooker of ambiguous racial background seeking real love from a man who will drive her to work at the Tropicana and have a beer waiting when she gets off at 11:00 a.m.

* Inuit Eskimo in Northwest Territories seeks woman with big forearms who can lift a seal out of the ice hole after I puncture its brain through the eyesocket with my special implement. No lice eaters.

* Free spirited woman who lives outside the box looking to be pampered and spoiled by older man with no imagination who will always refer to me as the wild and pretty one at parties. An advanced degree in an applied science puts you in my creamy center.

* Gay teen seeks sugar daddy in Hollywood Hills for me and eight of my friends. Spoil me rotten and let me use the pool and this beefcake is all yours. Must have Insulin and a safety deposit box.

* Man seeks woman. I’m a sensitive guy. A really nurturing guy and I want to take care of you, and even prefer it if you’re a little messed up so my role as a caretaker is just that much more clearly defined. I prefer women with pill problems or those who cry during sex. I also like cutters. It’d be great if you were, say, hooked on Vicodin after a car wreck, or if you were molested as a child, or even if you’re just plain nuts.

* Japanese girl looking to be a punk rocker and work in a bank. I like it if I can draw lipstick on you. You are so FUNNY!

* Demented sadist looking for blindfold-kidnap-rape role play with a sycophant pussy bitch. Must like Will Ferrell movies.

* Parents of a good Muslim Pakistani girl in Ohio have raised their daughter in the Western fashion so that she has a sense of freedom and individuality. Now looking to arrange a marriage for her with a fifty-year-old doctor from Karachi. Call if you like her picture and we’ll let you know that she hasn’t run away.

* Aging rock star with recurring self esteem issues looking for mercenary blonde with big tits to give me false sense of ego. Handle bookings a plus. Don’t piss off the band like the last one.

* Postman seeking anybody. Just anybody. Please don’t make my love turn to vengeance. Call me now.

* One-time high school nerd looking to pick up divorced ex-cheerleader. I’ve been waiting to have you and now I will.

* Look, I’m a crazy psycho bitch. Total vagina dentata. With me, what you see is what you get. So if you’re a guy who’s comfortable with that, let’s start from there and see if we can work our way up to polite and maybe it won’t end like a train wreck the way it usually does.

* Marry me for the political asylum, but stay because you love me.

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