has a strange way of sneaking up on you.
Having studied centuries of Western Civilization's music history, I've come to understand history in grand gestures and sweeping movements, in terms of highlights and arrows, compare/contrast columns, and timelines. Eras are typified by their giants: Guillame Dufay, Josquin des Prez, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlando de Lassus for the Renaissance; Claudio Monteverdi, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach for the Baroque; Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, Josef Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for the Classic; Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms for the Romantic; Igor Stravinsky, John Cage, Arnold Schoenberg for the "modern" part of the twentieth century; and then of course the more recent giants of our time, whose lives and work are not yet finished nor properly-understood within the scheme of things. And then those giants are typified by their great works, be they massive symphonies or sacred music for liturgical cycles or analytical systems or re-conceptions of music as "Art."
The point being that I've generally always understood history to be a monumental thing. And it seems we teach each other this very belief, that, for example, the United States has its roots in the lives and beliefs of a relatively tiny number of heroic men, a teaching which manifests itself even on the dirty pennies we stuff into our pockets.
But having seen at least one great historic event happen -- 9/11 -- during my lifetime since I've reached the "age of reason," I have to wonder if history doesn't have a strangely understated way of presenting itself. I remember that morning, waking up to the clock radio and wondering how it could possibly be true, how a fixture in our collective imagination could possibly be so vulnerable.
It was much this feeling I had this morning when my roommate called. He is on vacation in Florida -- Universal Studios, of all places -- but he called me to ask if I'd been watching the news. I hadn't been. But the news was: they'd caught Saddam.
At first, I was incredulous. I guess I'd reached the conclusion that Saddam would never be caught. It seemed, somehow, magically impossible. But there it is. They even have pictures.
I'm normally quite well-read of the news, but when things such as this happen, when history is being written, the pages of the papers and the hours of the broadcasts are saturated with government-prepared media releases designed to make our free press act like an efficient mouthpiece of the state. So I turned everything off and forced a certain amount of media seclusion. I expect, tomorrow, when I show up to class, to be one of the few not talking about -- not celebrating, really -- what the U.S. government will no doubt want to portray as a massive victory in the so-called War on Terror.
And it causes me to think how, in a nation supposedly built upon noble ideals, we've come to be a society that exults so much in the suffering of others and to depend so much upon war to define our position in the world. Is this what freedom looks like? Is this what it feels like? To be drowning in orgies of jingoistic patriotism, to feel assaulted by the media with addresses from a simple-minded executive?
They've caught Saddam Hussein. Good for them. I guess they're winning their war, after all.