Courtesy of MCT
With the celebrations after Osama bin Laden’s death was announced, many are asking why the college-aged generation was so enthusiastic over bin Laden’s death.
Social psychology professor Robert Arkin said it is hard to assess the youth reaction right now in regards to similar events in the past and an occurrence like 9/11 has not happened since World War II.
Arkin teaches a course on the psychology of personal security, which incorporates discussion on responses to terrorism.
Arkin said his own life has provided some insight to this generation’s reaction.
“I have sons that are in college, so I know what they grew up in after 9/11,” Arkin said. “It has pervaded their lives since age 10. Their whole lives, they have grown up in the threat of terrorism.”
The general exuberance can be explained psychologically, Arkin said. He compared the satisfaction of bin Laden’s death to when victims’ relatives can watch the execution of the murderer.
“It would seem odd that the victim’s family would want to do that,” Arkin said. “But it brings tremendous relief to make some sense of the pain they have endured. So I think his (bin Laden’s) death has brought everything full circle and provided closure to the younger people.”
Student assessments of the significance of bin Laden’s death vary.
Mike Baker, a third-year in hospitality management, said experiencing the event at the age he and his peers did warranted the excitement across the country.
“When you’re a part of history, it is easier to relate to,” Baker said. “Plus, everyone had someone they knew affected by it, whether it was a soldier or knew someone in the city when it happened. It just had such a broad range of individuals involved, and I think that is why it is a big deal.”
John Bennett, a fourth-year in comparative cultural studies, views the student reaction similarly to Arkin.
“I suppose to some people it represents closure because we have all grown up with this in our lives,” Bennett said.
Bennett took the plunge solo on Monday afternoon with a U.S. flag draped over his shoulder and shouting “U.S.A.,” in part to show how bizarre he found the event at Mirror Lake.
“I missed the party Sunday, but I just thought it was a curious way to react to a death of somebody,” Bennett said. “Celebrating like that didn’t seem to make much sense. I thought it was ridiculous, I mean, it just looked like a performance. I don’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing really.”
Jana Robinson, a fourth-year in strategic communication, has a completely different outlook on why Sunday was so festive for her generation.
“I think it is kind of because it happened in the Obama administration,” Robinson said. “(Former President George W.) Bush started this whole thing, and it was our main accomplishment. Now that it happened, everyone is freaking out.”
Robinson said there might be some closure from the celebrations and added that 9/11, coupled with the bin Laden death, could be this generation’s defining historical moments.
Carl Ewing, a third-year in accounting, said the his generation had more personal involvement because it is more likely than other generations to have friends on the battlefield. Or it could be simple.
“I think maybe it’s just an excuse to celebrate something,” Ewing said. “I don’t feel this is our generation’s ‘Oh yes!’ moment. It doesn’t happen every day, but it is just one step to a multi-step problem.”