Journal Archives

  1. I’ve got a full work plate this morning, and my own set of feelings to process about the news of Osama bin Laden’s death (more on that will likely appear on my Tumblr later tonight), but wanted to get down a couple noteworthy bullets. If I have time, I’ll return and flesh these out into a coherent piece.

    • We all know that social media get the word out at lightning speed–but what struck me most about this news was not the speed of information, but the immediacy of community development. People are using Twitter and Facebook to work out what are, for many, complicated emotions. Relief, joy, anger, sadness are all appearing at once. This is in stark contrast to what we often see in traditional media soundbites (particularly video media), where broad strokes are painted when it comes to emotional content–i.e., those people are cheering, those people over there are not. Social media is creating a space where it’s acceptable, and useful, to express multiple feelings. This is also very different than, for example, the days following 9/11–when the war on Afghanistan was announced, it was largely extremely taboo in American public squares (online or off) to express concern, or disagreement. Part of that was the political climate, but part of that was that there weren’t necessary effective public spaces for people to be nuanced human beings.
    • I’m also struck by the speed with humor was employed as a tactic to process the news. Again, in contrast to 9/11, when we waited two weeks for the new issue of The Onion to come out–no one made any jokes before then. Not only was it taboo, but there just wasn’t a way to deal. (By the way, that issue of The Onion might be the best one ever–headlines like, “God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule, “Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves in Hell,” and many more gems.) Last night, some of the immediate jokes, some in good taste, some not, clearly paved a way for people to express all kinds of reactions to this global news phenomenon. My personal favorites were @marcfaletti‘s “It was that f***ing iPad location history, wasn’t it?” and the newly created @OsamaInHell account tweeting, “Wait, what?”

    More as time allows today…

  2. “what is it about birmingham? / what is it about buffalo? / that the hate-filled wanna build bunkers / in your beautiful red earth / they wanna build them / in our shiny white snow” — ani difranco, “hello birmingham

    There is the obvious tragedy of the dead and wounded in Binghamton, NY. The anger and despair, the terror of knowing that a gunman can walk into a building in a relatively small city in rural, industrial upstate New York and massacre people at will.

    Then the other layers start piling on top of the fear and the rage: the layers that make the story just a little cloudier and darker. Yeah, there’s an inside joke in there– I grew up there, and Binghamton is the seventh cloudiest city in the country. The cloudiest east of the Rockies. No doubt that the lack of direct sun contributes to a sense of malaise in town, but it’s likely the overall economic decline over the last 20-25 years that makes Binghamton just a very sad city in many ways.

    We all have our grownup sensibilities about the towns we come from, especially those of us that moved to Big Cities– all our bravado about how glad we are that we “got out,” our vows to never look back (maybe), or quietly and smugly looking back at those quaint li’l places. But there is something special about Binghamton. It was never a thriving metropolis, but it got by alright, and that’s what most of the folks that live there seem to live by.

    I once wrote that the people from my hometown were never the stars of the production. We were always happy to be in the background, providing the scenery. Maybe once in a while, we were the people that got a line, fingering the suspect. “That’s the guy,” we’d say. It would be straightforward, without fanfare. That’s how people from Binghamton operate.

    Being brought to a national stage like this, under such horrible circumstances, is devastating. Not only do “things like this” not happen in Binghamton, but additional layers — economic duress, the immigrant aid center where it happened — make it all the more sharp.

    We have long been the destination of swaths of migrant populations: in the early 1900s, it was Eastern Europeans, and the Orthodox churches’ gold onion domes still dot the city landscape when you drive out along Route 17. More recently, it’s been populations of folk from a number of countries in Southeast Asia: Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotian and more. Not to say that there hasn’t been difficulty in transitioning populations, especially for a place with largely conservative values, but I always had the feeling that Binghamton prided itself on its immigrant foundations and offerings. Centers like the American Civic Association give new immigrants a place to find their footing in a cloudy city in upstate New York.

    Offerings. IBM was in many ways the responsible party for Binghamton’s survival for a lot of years, and when they left town, so did most of everything else. Now we’re learning that the shooter was recently laid off from one of the last vestiges of IBM. Economic distress might have been the thing that flipped this guy’s sanity over to the dark side. And now people are dead.


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