MICHELE NORRIS, host:

After the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed, many Americans, mostly young Americans, celebrated in the streets. Some have called it inappropriate.

But essayist Julianna Baggott says cut the kids some slack.

Ms. JULIANNA BAGGOTT (Author): There's been pushback against the spontaneous cheering crowds who took to the streets after the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death. But I think people are mistaking relief and a release of fear and collective breath-holding for hate.

The magazine The Nation scolds baseball fans for breaking into chants of USA during a Phillies ballgame. Giving people at a sporting event in a stadium a hard time for spontaneously chanting? That seems like it was written by someone who's never really chanted something in a stadium. In stadium speak, this is actually a statement of unity, not necessarily jeering.

I'm middle aged, so when I'm flooded with relief, my grand action is to sigh. When I was 20, however, I generally whooped at every chance given. Columnist Kevin Cullen in his Boston Globe piece expresses his ambivalence about college kids, many of whom would have been 9 or 10 years old when the Twin Towers fell, celebrating the death of bin Laden.

He writes: Watching the jubilation in Kenmore Square felt oddly uncomfortable, as if bin Laden had managed to brutalize all of us just a little. He writes later in the piece: For most Americans, including many in Kenmore Square, including me, the biggest sacrifice we've made in the last 10 years is having to take our shoes off at the airport.

I disagree with his claim. I wouldn't ever assume the collective impact of September 11th on any other generation. What if the Twin Towers falling was the first vivid historic memory of your life? What if it was the first time you'd ever seen your parents afraid?

One of the kids who took to the streets in Newark, Delaware, is a nephew of mine. And I know the worry and fear that have surrounded the young boys in our family, the fear of a renewed draft. This might feel old-school to some, but I have three sons myself and a daughter, and acts of war make you look at your children with greater protectiveness. These are the kids who have friends over there now, friends their own age.

To say that we're annoyed at airport security doesn't capture the national emotion at this point in history. Most Americans are weary, tired, broke, feeling beat up. This upsurge of emotion feels to me simply honest. And in the sober light of day, we've calmed down.

Don't shame the young for releasing their pent-up fear. Let them remember how they took to the streets on a warm, clear night in Boston or D.C. or Philly, even the small college town of Newark, Delaware. Let them remember that they raised their voices, loudly, together. Let them remember it proudly.

NORRIS: Julianna Baggott teaches at Florida State University's Creative Writing Program.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.