Saturday, March 29, 2008

We have tired. We have faltered. We have failed.

"We will not tire ... we will not falter ... we will not fail ..."
President George W. Bush, addressing the nation after the 9-11 attacks

This morning, I spent a bit of time doing some work research on newspaper design. Even though I'm tremendously busy, I'm a little bored with what I am doing design-wise at work. It isn't lack of imagination as much as the need to think about things in a deeper way, with emphasis on getting more creative and challenging myself. The same old pedestrian design gets stale fast. In these strange media times, there is not a lot of time for this kind of contemplation. But, I find it exhilarating to even be toying with design ideas.
Over the past few weeks, the head of our pagination department has let me borrow his editions of The Best in Newspaper Design published by the Society for News Design. They are relatively inexpensive - about $30 a piece - but since he already has them sitting around his office, why not take a look at what the real pros are doing out there.
Most of the award-winning designs are the big papers, with big staffs [slowing shrinking big staffs], who spend nothing but time looking at how their newspapers are put together each day. For a weekly, you often don't have this kind of time unless you think ahead. As well, it is hard to localize content when looking at foreign policy issues or great societal shifts, some of the big things the award winners have tackled.
But, at the same time, if you can do a little planning, you can get creative and that is the point for even spending any time on this. In any process, the first step is to educate yourself. The second step is figuring out how to get it done. The third step is to get it done. Sometimes you have to do that quickly; other times you don't.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the 25th edition, covering 2003 and got a lot of ideas for the future. Some were silly. Others were cool. Some were totally off the wall and would take hundreds of manhours to create. But other ideas weren't that hard to consider. Some graphics, a picture or two, some creative fonting, and wah lah, something challenging, fresh and new.
After returning the 25th edition, I was sent the 23rd edition, the one with a lot of 9-11 stuff in it. I was struck by the emotion and, frankly, depravity of it all the covers ... violent, painful, and frightening ... everything a newspaper should be to convey such a tragic event. And for the first time in a long time, I thought about 9-11.
While I was skimming through the endless amounts of front covers portraying the attacks towards the end of the book, one stuck out at me. It was The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, La., from Sept. 21, 2001, and it featured a picture of President Bush holding up a police badge with the words 'WE WILL NOT TIRE. WE WILL NOT FALTER. WE WILL NOT FAIL.' in bold across the top.
I almost passed by it completely and then went back and looked at it again. I paused for a minute just staring at the cover.
The words and the headline's boldness, pun completely intended, struck me. We just acknowledged the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. There are more than 4,000 American servicemen and women dead, tens of thousands of American and coalition forces wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, wounded, and upended by the violence of our invasion, and hundreds of billions spent and wasted on this debacle. There is absolute chaos on the ground in Iraq, to the point where the supposedly safe green zone is under constant attack. And the most important thing to remember about all of this is this point right here: Osama bin Ladin - the alleged perpetrator of the 9-11 attacks - is still on the loose.
You can only come to one conclusion: We have tired. We have faltered. We have failed. And, frankly, many American people have forgotten. Why? Because the perpetrators of this fraud, the invasion of Iraq, sent our resources, men and women, and treasure on a wild goose chase which had nothing to do with 9-11.
Until we can get our troops out of Iraq and hunt every damn inch of dirt in Afghanistan and Pakistan to find bin Ladin and bring him to America to stand trial, we will never be able to resolve these attacks and heal from them. And this doesn't take into account the endless amounts of unanswered questions surrounding the attacks, like how a $500 billion a year military and intelligence system could so hopelessly fail us against some clowns with box cutters, something our nation has still not addressed. No, we've thrown more money at the same departments and entities which failed to keep our nation safe from the 9-11 attacks in the first place.
In a way it has become clear that some people in our country never want us to heal from the attacks. They don't want justice to prevail. If they did, we wouldn't be thinking about attacking Iran. If they did, we wouldn't be in Iraq at all. We'd be in Afghanistan with all the resources we are wasting in Iraq, hunting down bin Ladin. At this point, all of this is about nothing but control. Because, so long as you are scared of something, you can and will be controlled.

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