Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Moment of Silence is Golden

Okay, so as it turns out, I'm a heartless bitch.

At the end of last week the work folks announced that they had reduced-price tickets to see Barack Obama at the Milwaukee Theater on Monday night. Curious to see what the man is all about, I happily bopped down and bought a couple and found a willing companion.

Now, we all know the story that broke on Monday. It was all over NPR, it was all over everywhere. I don't watch TV (especially CNN since it turned into Access Hollywood), but I know there was a constant loop of "Disaster!" that kept the networks abuzz all day and night. (Even Boing Boing was a-light with long-ass post after long-ass post) Still, I had work to do and while I feel for the poor souls at Virginia Tech, I didn't really have time to pay the story much mind.

As the day drew to a close and I grew weary of staring at the project I've been working on for like, the last week and half, I tore myself away from my desk, sauntered over to my companion's office and we struck out in search of dinner. By the way, just in case anybody is wondering... I do NOT highly recommend the cuisine at Bar Louie. Worst salad I've had in an ice age. Non-stop disco iceberg and faaaaaar too much dressing. Also, the waitress kinda sucked.

After dinner, we took a nice stroll downtown, walking from Water St. to the Milwaukee Theater. The sun was setting and that funny pink building was ablaze with the sun's fading light, the river looked less disgusting than usual, and the air felt almost warm. We approached the Theater and were waved through with our fabulous "white tickets". (Seriously, it was funny... we approached the ticket-takers and every time we walked up they'd say "White tickets? White tickets, go on through." I felt like a VIP. And I should. Because I am.) We found a seat and spent the next hour scoping cute politico boys (and trust me, there were some hot numbers out there - from a hipster in a Value Village tee to a bearded campaign-ite in a suit the place was hopping), attempting to identify prominent Milwaukee figures, and generally behaving as Statler & Waldorf from The Muppet Show.

We waited and waited, watching the turkey-necked channel 12 newscaster prepare for the start of the show, endured Willy Hines's singing children (okay, okay... brief concession... Hines's little boy is pretty damned cute), and watched as Mayor Barrett prostrated himself with his ringing endorsement of Obama. "He's from Illinois, he's a young senator, with a young family, so you can see why I'd like him." (Oh... I can, can I? Please to explain what that's got to do with you, old man? Has anyone mentioned to you that your hair is nearly white? And grow back your mustache, your crazy Tom Selleck look amused me during the campaign.) He mentioned that in observance of the recent tragedy, that Obama had considered canceling his appearance.

Now, I don't understand this. After waiting for an hour to see him - and the front rows were full, you know those folks got there early so there were others waiting longer than us - Obama spoke for maybe... maybe 20 minutes. I consider that kind of thoughtless and such a maneuver. Oh, and did I mention that the $ we forked over for the priviledge of hearing him went directly to his campaign? So, explain to me what the political implications would have been in taking a moment to acknowledge the pain the people of Blacksburg, a moment of silence, and then continuing on as normal? Do you really think the local news would be reporting "Barack Obama ruthlessly soldiered on in his campaign of terror despite the horrors of this morning's events"? I mean, I don't put anything past the local news in their undying quest for stupidity in reporting, but c'mon. I fail to understand what one thing had to do with the other thing. Fine, leverage the tragedy a little bit to take some time to talk about your stance on violence and gun control. That I understand. But to cut short your commitment to helping the voting public who specifically in this instance helped pay for future endeavors of this nature to understand who you are and what your values are, I think, is contrary to your purpose. He talked about how usually during these types of appearances there were flashing video screens and loud music designed to get the audience pumped up. Fine, trim it down to basics. Appear before a ginormous American flag (hell, swath yourself in it for all I care - oh, and by the by - he did appear before a ginormous American flag), have children sing the national anthem (check), quote Dr. King (yep, check, that one too), do what ya gotta do but but do it for more than 20 minutes. Dammit.

Cho Seung-Hui did something terrible. Yes, I know. It is terrible. I do feel for the staff, students, residents of Blacksburg, the family of the staff and students who lost their lives. I truly do. But I will always fail to see how "observing a moment of silence" or stopping whatever you're doing in order to appear solemn and in solidarity makes very much difference at all to the people suffering on the other side of the country.

So I guess I'm heartless. At noon yesterday, the president of the college requested that we observe one of these "moments of silence", I was in class at the time and there was no silence at all in there. Do you think the people of Virginia Tech were hurt?

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