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11 July 2005

In London Town

Wouldn’t it be so wonderful
If everything were meaningless?
But everything is so meaningful
And most everything turns to shit.
– Pedro the Lion

I guess it’s only natural that London be on my mind a bit this week, given what happened Thursday. And given that my wife and I were in town five days beforehand, riding one of the very lines that was bombed at around the very time the bombings later occurred. But sometimes coincidences are just coincidences. Sometimes we look for meaning in the oddities and coincidences and thank-God-we-weren’t-there-five-days-laters, when really sometimes shit just kind of happens for no apparent reason at all. Should Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane see underlying meaning in the fact that he would have died on one of the flights that slammed into the World Trade, had he not overslept his plane because of a hangover? Did he just get lucky? Or is every little detail part of some master plan? Where are you when we need you, Owen Meany?

Anyways, as my wife already mentioned, in some ways this is far more sobering than New York and D.C. I’ve been to D.C., but not New York. I never saw the World Trade up close. I’ve not been to the Pentagon. But I’ve been in London. I’ve walked the bustling streets late at night during the midst of Live 8, Wimbledon and the countdown to an Olympics decision. I’ve ridden the notoriously late tubes and gazed at Big Ben from the London Eye. I have friends in New York, but I’ve got some in London, too, some that I just met. I hope they’re alive and safe. Then again, I didn’t have news organisations putting disturbing footage on constant loop to manipulate my emotions this time either. Maybe they did. I don’t know. I’ve stopped watching FoxSNBCNN.

But there are so many other things to think about when something like this happens. Things that seem a bit trivial, but which should be examined anyways because, really, somewhere things like this happen every day.

It was interesting to see how different news agencies handled the news online, for instance. Just a few hours into the aftermath, Yahoo! News was reporting 40 deaths. Yet it was much later before BBC News raised casualties to above three. Why? I can only guess. Perhaps the BBC News isn’t as sloppy. Perhaps they scrutinise their facts more closely, instead of, say, misreporting who won a presidential election and then repeatedly having to backpedal. (And we won’t even get into whose first cousin was working that night at Fox News, the organisation that first called the election for you know who.)

We can also rest easy knowing that the U.S. will probably never make significant strides at upping public transportation now. While I was in Europe, I visited seven cities in seven countries. Not once did I drive a car. In the States, I would be lucky to make it to the next town using mass transit. And it’s at least partially that ironic dependence on oil that will keep Middle Eastern terrorists hating us for decades to come.

Also noteworthy is what the news isn’t reporting at all. Like, for instance, an Israeli report stating that Scotland Yard had intelligence warnings of the attacks a short time before they occurred. Or that in 1996 Britian’s MI6 paid an al Qaeda cell in Libya £100,000 to assassinate Muammar Qaddaf, royally botching early attempts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. And I suppose we won’t hear about the consulting agency with government connections that was running an exercise that revolved around the London Underground being bombed at the exact same times and locations as happened in real life on 7 July (similar to the eerily coincidental training exercises that were being run on the morning of 11 September, 2001, in New York).

Perhaps, like Seth MacFarlane’s hangover, those things are all just coincidences. Let’s hope so.

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