“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again.”
— Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel
Typically in the newsroom of a big city newspaper, journalists are making story assignments, writing, editing and taking photographs during the first hours after a big news event — such as the president of the United States dumping 59 cruise missiles into the lap of some foreign country without congressional approval.
Of course there’s nothing typical about these times, and nothing typical about The Shinbone Star either. With few exceptions, we are not first-responders to news events, and although most of our writers and editors have professional experience, we are not a credentialed news organization, don’t have the same access that working journalists have, and don’t have the same mandate.
Still, for most of us when a big story hits, our first inclination is that we ought to be writing about it. But write what, exactly?
Sometimes even experienced journalists need time to process their feelings, or maybe hold off when things don’t quite add up — at least they used to before Twitter happened.
Like many of you, Shinbone Star staff members monitored news throughout the day yesterday . . . but curbed our own desire to write immediately. Some of us did, however, talk things over privately, then later thought our conversation might be interesting for some of our readers because it shows how members of that great faceless entity known as “the media” don’t always agree.
Some comments below have been lightly edited for clarity, and the comments from some members have been removed at their request:
Fred Bunch: All those images of millions of fleeing Syrians with their children, didn’t move Donnie nor Americans enough to take any of them in, did it? I can’t help but believe that this is just another example of his hatred toward Obama. Note that he implored Obama on several occasions NOT to get involved in Syria.
Kelly: Obama wanted a strike, but Congress wouldn’t approve it so it never happened. Trump bypassed Congress, so no matter how you feel about the strike as a response to the chemical attacks, it was still unconstitutional.
Glenn Redus: I’m trying to write something about Syria now, but it’s a bitch because it’s not as clear cut as I might like it to be.
Kelly: Yeah, I’m not against doing something when children are being killed. But I am worried about him (unsurprisingly) not going through the proper channels and I wonder how this will affect his buddy-buddy relationship with Putin.
Glenn Redus: The cynic in me sees this as a great way (for Trump) to gain a little separation there.
Lin Lofley: I am worried that the Russians tipped the Syrians, who got most of their equipment out of harm’s way before the attack. And if there were actual civilians on that base (not sure I believe it), were they perhaps dissidents taken there and left by the regime in order to have bodies to put on show. We don’t know yet just what is what.
Glenn Redus: I’m struck by these quotes from Trump (in the NY Times) because they sound like they came from an actual human being:
“I will tell you,” he said to reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday, “that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me — big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.”
Appearing again the next evening at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump said that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had “choked out the life of innocent men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
Lin Lofley: He’s talking about those beautiful babies he won’t let into our country, right? Oh, and Assad has been attacking his own people for a long time. Somebody said that Obama couldn’t react and protect the Syrians. Oh, yeah, it was the guy who’s now our president. Question for The Current President: Hypocrite much?
Glenn Redus: I’m going around and around on this, with no resolution in sight. That’s a bad formula for writing something, so if anybody else has a clear head on it, feel free. Whatever anybody comes up with will move to the head of the line . . . we can double-post today.
Lin Lofley: The Current President doesn’t have a clear head on this either. Five years ago he said Obama should stay out of Syria. Now he says it’s a mess because Obama did nothing. And that is the conundrum. We have to depend on Congress on this one . . . which means we’re up the creek.
Gaynell Terrell: Occurred to me that the chemical attack took place on Tuesday, but the Chinese leader didn’t get to town until Thursday, coincidentally the day trupm reacted… Also, the Tomahawks cost about $1.5 m each. trupm could have made 20 trips to Mar-A-Lago for what he dropped on the airbase. Or funded Meals on Wheels for 60 years.
Glenn Redus: So here’s what I keep coming back to: What SHOULD the American response have been to a poison gas attack in Syria?
Lin Lofley: My own first thought: Better than boots on the ground. I hope The Current President never goes that route.
Glenn Redus: I wonder what it must be like to be a citizen of some other civilized nation where you can go to sleep at night with confidence that by morning you will not have stepped in some other country’s shit.
Kelly: I am by no means an advocate for war, but I also wonder what it’s like to be a citizen of Syria and wonder why no one is trying to help you. I know it’s not really our responsibility, and I don’t support the way Trump went about it, but I’m also not cool with not doing anything at all.
Kelly: I want to make it clear that by doing something, I don’t necessarily mean military action. When Obama backed away from the “red line,” he was still able to talk to Putin, get Assad to allow inspectors in, and get many (probably not all, because I doubt Assad pointed out all of his stockpiles) of the chemical weapons carted away. That was SOMETHING. That didn’t risk American lives and it at least bought us 3 1/2 years. Not that other terrible things haven’t been going on in Syria in the meantime.
Glenn Redus: Okay, is it just crackpot to imagine that Russia cooked up this whole sarin attack, knowing that the U.S. would likely respond and force a very public divorce between Trump and Putin?
Gaynell Terrell: Not a total crock to think ISIS caused the big brothers to fight, while sneaking that last piece of fried chicken from the platter.
Lin Lofley: Anything is possible. But it’s also possible that if the intelligence people sniff this out then the White House is gonna dispute the finding.
Deconstructing Doctor: I think the part that makes my head want to explode is that maybe it’s possible he made the right decision? You gotta defend dead babies, but then again that’s how you turn public opinion around to support the giant war machine that thins the herd and produces the big profits. So it’s back to the wealthy playing chess with our children’s lives. Imagine the call to release the bombs was made just a short distance from his golf course. Like any other day in paradise.
Lin Lofley: My immediate response to hearing about the strikes was that I was OK with it. Now I want to hear about why the Russians knew before Congress knew. I want to hear whether or not the Syrians were tipped off, so they could clear the base of as much of the materiel as they could carry. I want to know who the civilians were, who were allegedly killed (including 4 kids). Were they planted by Assad, perhaps? So many questions.
Deconstructing Doctor: I think Hillary would have made the same decision but for totally different reasons. Anything Trump does automatically makes me question how he is going to benefit. Nothing is done for the good of man or woman kind
Glenn Redus: As an American, I WANT to believe he did it for the right reasons. But part of the reason why I was unable to write about it this morning was that there’s enough doubt in my mind and confusion in my soul that wouldn’t allow me to write anything coherent. I think there’s a big tendency in this country that whenever the military gets involved, we drop our differences and root for the home team. Of course there are exceptions, with Vietnam immediately coming to mind, but in more recent times, you risk looking like a traitor when your country does something militarily, and you’re not supportive at least of the men and women in harm’s way. The obvious counter to that is that when you’re firing Tomahawks from a ship in the Mediterranean, how many (of those men and women) are really in harm’s way? Having lived all my life in this country, it would seem unnatural to see pictures of gassed babies and NOT do anything about it, so I WANT to be on board here … but Trump.
Lin Lofley: Good points all. When we have no boots on the ground that also colors our thinking. And Vietham was a special case. We as a country were deeply divided.
Deconstructing Doctor: Glenn could you be inspired to write a piece about the American pride during WW2 for fighting against tyranny vs a current war when we are the tyrants? How patriotism made sense when you are not the bad guy. Now we are the bad guys. Just a thought probably a little too deep for this novice.
Glenn Redus: It’s a good idea, Doc, but I’m not quite THAT old!
Deconstructing Doctor: 😂 😂 😂 I didn’t mean from personal experience 😂 😂 😂
Glenn Redus: But you’re right, Doc, you really are. Even though I wasn’t exactly born yet, I have been exposed to all that through TV and movies, and the same can be said for a lot of people. I doubt there are many World War II movies I haven’t seen, and I think the results of that war color our perceptions to this day. We still want to be the heroes, we still want to be John Wayne hitting the beach at Iwo Jima, or Tom Hanks charging ashore at Normandy. Even though all of that is ancient history to the youth in America and other parts of the world, it’s still a big part of the lives of Baby Boomers, who see some new travesty in the world and think it’s our place to once again save the day.
Lin Lofley: It might be a little early for this kind of a piece. We’re not in it yet, and I’m not certain that this isn’t the kind of thing where everyone will rattle the sabers and we’ll come to an “agreement” with Putin that allows The Current President to project himself as a man of peace. And the rubes will believe him.
Lin Lofley: Had another thought as I listened to the radio on the way home. What if TCP got wind late afternoon of the anemic jobs report that was coming out today? What might knock that off the top of the front page?
Glenn Redus: The tragic thing is, you can never say never with this guy.
Lin Lofley: And don’t forget that war doesn’t really mean a lot to kids of today, unless they have served.
Glenn Redus: But is that true, Lin? I didn’t serve, but I think I can appreciate what those who went through it endured. One thing that has changed since World War II, and I guess Trump is right when he said this, however inelegantly, nobody wins wars anymore. So there’s never these glorious VJ Day photos that mark an end to anything and give you a good feeling. Nowadays, war is just a long, tragic grind that nobody wins, and seems to never end. So if you’re a kid today, I can certainly see why it wouldn’t mean anything, at least not anything where duty is involved.
Deborah Quinn Hensel: I’m trying to remain sanguine about all this, but I’m really having to tamp down hard on an urge to go out and start digging a bomb shelter.
Fred Bunch: In order to understand Donnie we must start to think (or not) like him. The most gonzo, moronic move is the key. No way he’d go at North Korea. So, he’s gonna go at North Korea. He told us so. If China won’t do it he’ll go it alone. If I lived in Seoul, I’d be leaving.
Eric Linton: Mattis would tie him in a straitjacket before he could do that. (I hope)
Jerry Fordyce: Might get some mad at me for saying this, but I think the response was correct. Now that doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind. To me it was a no-brainer, and the response was measured. Gave the Russians warning and attacked at 3 am local to avoid casualties. Kind of thing Jed Bartlett would have done. Of course, it’s very possible tomorrow he’s lobbing bombs at North Korea or Australia for that matter.