Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reflecting on 9/11

I don’t watch the National Geographic Channel all that much for a variety of reasons. The most obvious of these reasons is because I’m not 11-years-old, which is another way of saying that topless tribal women don’t really do it for me anymore. I mean, don’t get me wrong – if someone tells me that topless tribal women are on Nat Geo, I’ll still change the channel and check it out. I’m only flesh and blood, after all. It’s just that now I casually observe and make a mental note that Charles Barkley’s man boobs will probably look like these women’s breasts in the next 10-15 years (assuming that they don’t already look like them now) and I no longer giggle with my classmates in school the next day about how I saw real life boobs on TV and they weren’t even blurred out.

The reason I bring up Nat Geo is because, frankly, I wanted to discuss topless tribal women, but also because I watched the channel for the first time in a long time the other day after discovering that they were showing a bunch of 9/11 documentaries. I consider myself to be a bit of a historian and don’t exactly know why, but I’m a sucker for any kind of documentary about tragedies. I could watch hours and hours of shows about things like the JFK assassination, the Columbine shootings, or Pearl Harbor (as long as those hours and hours aren’t directed by Michael Bay). But what sets 9/11 apart from seemingly every other American tragedy is not only that I can remember it happening, but also that I could fully understand the magnitude of what was happening as it happened. The only other tragedy I can say this about is the recent futility of Michigan football, which is completely different because it’s a tragedy that I enjoyed. That’s right. Despite what Nick Saban may think, there actually is a distinct difference between college football and the most devastating terrorist attack to ever take place on American soil. Hard to believe, I know.

After watching a couple hours of these 9/11 documentaries, I started talking to my friend Keller on Skype and I eventually brought up what I had just watched. Our ensuing conversation followed my typical 9/11 conversation script. First we discussed how much that terrorist dude who came up with the whole plan (not Osama, but the other guy) looks like a cross between Ron Jeremy and Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. This went on for at least 10 minutes. We then shifted our focus towards hypotheticals and what-ifs, because if my friends and I aren’t playing “would you rather…”, we’re either playing FIFA or we’re discussing hypothetical and often outlandish scenarios (this sentence was supposed to kinda be a joke, but it’s actually frighteningly accurate. I can’t decide if this is a good thing).

We each went back and forth with crazy what-if situations that are completely irrelevant (“if you were on one of the planes and had a parachute, would you have jumped out and saved yourself or would you have tried to stop the terrorists and died a hero like the guys on United 93?”), and almost always lied with our answers to make us seem more badass (“Are you kidding? I would have murdered all the terrorists on the plane, landed the thing safely, and then made my exit like the Jet Blue flight attendant dude. Except I would have done the Stone Cold Steve Austin thing with the two beers I stole”). This macho discussion of random what-ifs went on for an hour before I decided to turn things up a notch and make Keller do some real soul searching. Here’s what I wrote(copied and pasted from our conversation):

“While backpacking through the hills of Afghanistan and whatever countries border Afghanistan, you wander into a random cave to get some shade and you find Osama bin Laden. He’s alone and he’s watching re-runs of Jersey Shore on DVD because his cable went out and he can’t risk telling the cable guy where he lives. Nobody in the world knows where he is, not even the terrorists that he used to work with (you know this because Anderson Cooper just recently broke the news on his Emmy award-winning show, Anderson Cooper 360°, that Osama was overthrown by his people and is now in hiding). He has no weapons on him. All you have in your backpack is a delicious Chipotle burrito and the half-full bottle of green jalapeño sauce you obviously stole from the restaurant because, let’s face it, that’s all you really need.

Your first choice is to engage him in hand-to-hand combat, and hope that all the time hiding out in the cave has made his skills rusty and his aging body a step too slow. Best case scenario: you win the fight, do that one move that they do in movies where the one guy breaks the other guy’s neck and instantly kills him, enjoy your delicious burrito, and become a national/global hero. Worst case scenario: he manhandles you, puts you in a sharpshooter, steals your burrito from your bag, and eats it while you squirm in agony. Oh, and then he does that one move that they do in movies where the one guy breaks the other guy’s neck and instantly kills him.

Your other choice is to give Osama the burrito as a peace offering. He will obviously accept it and will immediately abandon any thoughts of harming you he might have had, because even radical Muslims can appreciate free Chipotle. You make small talk with him and learn that, like you, he also secretly resents his family for never trying to go on Family Double Dare. You leave the cave with his full trust, hike your way back to civilization, and eventually come back to America to inform the military where he is hiding. They then travel to the cave and kill Osama, hopefully after they remember to light a bag of poop on fire, put it by the front door, and ring the doorbell like you suggested. Best case scenario with this choice: Osama gets a rocket launcher to the nuts, courtesy of the red, white, and blue. Worst case scenario: Osama leaves the cave before the military arrives and continues his life in hiding. To make matters worse, you’re out a burrito and your chance at becoming a global hero.


We both agreed that we would try to fight bin Laden, mostly because we both think we’re much tougher than we actually are. Some of you might argue that not trying to fight him would be the cowardly thing to do, but others would argue that doing so would be the smart and safe play (plus you could also argue that you’d rather have bin Laden die by getting blown to smithereens than die from a neck-breaking maneuver that would probably take a few attempts). For me, fighting him is a no-brainer because it’s my personal philosophy that any time I have a chance to cement my legacy as an American hero, I’ll risk life and limb to make it happen. Even if I die, I’ll know that I died defending the two things that mean the most to me – my country and my Chipotle. Words can’t even begin to explain how much honor there is in that.

For those who care, here was Keller’s take:

“I’d try to fight him for sure. If he beats me and puts me in the sharpshooter, I’d refuse to tap out, to the point of passing out from the pain like Stone Cold at Wrestlemania 13. Because that’s F-ING AMERICAN. But even if I’m on the brink of death, the pretend Wrestlemania crowd's chants of ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ will allow me to summon one last bit of strength and break his neck via a Stone Cold Stunner.”

In case you weren’t aware, the nine year anniversary of 9/11 is on Saturday. Personally, I think it’s important for all of us to reflect on the tragedy and think of ways we, as Americans, can become better people and better citizens of this great country (if you’re reading this and you aren’t American, I wish I could say I’m sorry but I’m really not – love it or leave it). You can accomplish this by watching footage from 9/11 in hopes that it will help you conjure up feelings of patriotism, but reliving the horrors of that day seems pretty depressing to me. Instead of looking at the past, I encourage you to focus on the future or, more specifically, a hypothetical and completely unrealistic future. The what-if scenario I wrote about gives you an opportunity to do some soul searching and evaluate your commitment to this country. There are no wrong answers to the question, as long as you have America in mind with your decision. How you react isn’t important. Knowing that you’d do anything to kill bin Laden if you found him in a cave while backpacking is. So do some thinking Saturday (after you say a prayer for the victims’ families and our soldiers who are currently at war because of 9/11) and put yourself in that situation. Ask yourself what you would do. But most importantly, ask yourself what you would risk for your country – your life or your delicious Chipotle burrito? __________________________________________________

I’m bypassing Trillion Man March YouTube submissions, because this post obviously needs to be properly ended with a patriotic video. Luckily, my favorite national anthem performance of all-time happened to be at a basketball game, so it fits into the basketball-related theme that all the YouTubes at the end of posts have. I’m sure virtually all of you have seen this, but it’s worth watching over and over again. Anyway, without Freddy Adu, here’s Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star game.

Proud To Be An American But Even Prouder To Be A Buckeye,

Mark Titus

Club Trillion Founder