America’s Most American Moment
The other day I wrote about “American moments.” In short an American moment is one that involves absurd excess, or anything that is made possible by absurd excess. Watching the Egyptian protests over the last few weeks has reminded me of what is perhaps the most American moment I’ve ever had. Events like the Egyptian protests are a cable news outlet’s wet dream. Few things get better ratings than a story being reported from a burning Middle Eastern city at night. I hope they teach that in J-School.
The American moment these Egyptian protests have reminded me of was the two weeks I spent home from school in March 2003. A little back story, I was a junior in high school that spring, and was sitting at home because of a serious medical condition. I won’t get all doctor-ey so suffice it to say some kid punched me and it broke my eye socket into little pieces, requiring decently extensive surgery and a couple metal plates. My tennis racket and my face are made out of the same material now. Thankfully the world hadn’t gone green yet so I don’t think that my new eye socket was actually made from recycled tennis rackets. I elected not to go to school while the left side of my face was a swollen tender red pulp. Besides, staying at home and playing with eyeball scabs was way more fun.
Anyway, in March 2003 the United States of America commenced Operation Shock and Awe, their pre-invasion bombing and subsequent invasion of Iraq. I was home to watch the whole thing, and it fucking rocked. I was glued to the couch, sandwich in hand, watching the U.S. invade another country, only switching the station to check on the NCAA Tournament. How fucking ridiculous is that last sentence when put into context? On the other end of the television people were huddled in basements hoping American missiles wouldn’t crash through their ceiling. Meanwhile I was stuffing my face and checking on the 12-5 upset I picked. That sounds like something out of a futuristic dystopian novel (smart words!). But it wasn’t, it was just an average spring day in suburban St. Louis.
As stated in the above definition of an American moment, said moment must either be one of absurd excess, or be a product of absurd excess. I’m having trouble deciding which this is. At first glance it seems obvious that this would be a product of absurd excess. The power and wealth of the United States has literally allowed us to view the countries we invade on TV like it’s that creepy government controlled programming in “Starship Troopers.” Would you like to know more? The moment was not a product of absurd excess though, but rather it was absurd excess. What was in excess? Victory, it was excessive victory.
You can say what you want about the war, this article isn’t being written to support or decry it. It’s just a commentary on how I viewed it. Not just me either, people all across the country were watching it. There had to be countless fraternity houses and college dorm rooms playing CNN while a group of drunken kids watched and cheered, like me only changing channels to watch basketball. There were people more concerned with how far teams had advanced in their bracket than how far the spearhead had advanced towards Baghdad. The lesson learned is: don’t go to war with a country if said country’s population will still be more concerned with an office betting pool than the war with your country. In fact if that’s the case, your war with that country is probably going to be a part of another separate office betting pool, if the workers are savvy enough gamblers.
Not only was this my ultimate American moment, but it was possibly America’s ultimate American moment, at least under my ridiculous definition of it. After all we are the land of plenty, and what the U.S.A. pulled off during those weeks in March and early April was plenty awesome. It’s the equivalent of a Floyd Mayweather mercilessly beating children with his right hand while he live streams it with a flip camera in his left hand.
I’ll never forget those two weeks in March. Nothing I’m writing today was lost on me then. I knew what I was watching was historic. Not because of the war, but because of how I could watch it. Desert Storm was technically the first war to receive this kind of coverage. But Shock and Awe wasn’t a collection of grainy night vision footage and telephone feeds. It was expensive TV news cameras set up on tripods across a river waiting for the U.S. bombardment. It was excessive victory. It was an American moment if I’ve ever fucking seen one. It was this: