I am a Pavlovian creature. I was 14 on 9/11 and my worldview has been so clouded by the ghost-gray lower Manhattan smoke of that day, a specter unto itself, that it’s hard for me to see anything like the chaos of yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombing and not circle back to where I sat the night of September 11th, on the bed in my parents’ room, watching news reports and realizing that it was all much more horrible than I had realized. It was an endless loop of the moments of impact and the towers melting out of existence. People were falling from the sky. I sat there on my parents’ bed in Ohio, not knowing a soul in New York City or Washington, D.C., and cried because I’d never seen anything like it. The cinematic nature of the deaths was the most frightening part; stuff like this didn’t just happen in the movies anymore.
We are living in a golden age of information. Any newshound or junkie will tell you so. More and more, the layers of position and personage that constitute establishment influence are being peeled back to their tendons, revealing the innermost workings of power. The wry cynicism of Twitter has become the lingua franca of information brokers. Public statements are easily picked apart and the official stagecraft of a flag-pinned lapel, a rolled-up shirtsleeve, an of-the-people photo op are all viewed as perfunctory gestures, rote and largely meaningless.
It’s March in America, and if you are any kind of average citizen in this plugged-in, un-buckled, vegged-out nation, you’ve been soothing your winter malaise with a tsunami of television watching. You might even be seeking a little insight into the human experience, tuning into HBO and Showtime for their critically lauded helpings of suspense, hard-to-watch sex, and pathos.
Distilled to their essence, elections turn on the rigidity of numbers, concrete and comforting, imposed onto the chaos of human opinion. We stew when they do not go our way, but in these matters, majorities rule, minorities shout, and votes rarely occur without the employment of cajoling and cunning by candidates.
Whatever your political leanings may be, you have to sympathize with the Bush family today as a sentient being existing in the Internet age after a hacker leaked a ream of their correspondence to The Smoking Gun. You probably share too much personal information over e-mail (can I get an amen, Davey P.?) and God knows that G-chat holds enough secrets to end half the relationships in the United States (that’s a conservative estimate).