Bye-Bye, Gaddafi…wait, who?

Muammar Gaddafi, the aristocratic ruler of Libya since 1969, was overthrown and murdered yesterday as a part of the Libyan Civil War.  Gaddafi  ruled Libya by force for over 40 years, and the news of the dictator’s death sparked massive celebrations throughout the country until way past the sun set.  The news rattled the world and leaders of every main country of the world responded quickly, stating everything from “the shadow of tyranny over Libya has been lifted” (U.S. President Barack Obama) to “We shall remember Gaddafi our whole lives as a great fighter, a revolutionary and a martyr. They assassinated him. It is another outrage.” (Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez).  Clearly, there’s a wide spectrum of opinion.  In Libya, however, the death of the flamboyant tyrant has come as great relief to the vast majority of commoners.  As news of Gaddafi’s death spread across the nation, celebrations sparked.

[ Here, Libyans are intoxicated with joy as they celebrate the death]

Gaddafi was a strange fellow.  This article specifies the seven weirdest things about the ruler, ranging from his 40 female, virgin bodyguards to his infatuation with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  The assassination of  Muammar Gaddafi causes extreme disrupt in the political system of Libya.  For years, the nation has been under control of a dictator with an iron-fist.  Now, the idea of democracy that has seemed so distant from the citizens of Libya since the nation gained independence in 1951 is finally becoming a reality.

While Gaddafi's face is so well recognized on a worldly level, many American teens have been asking, "Who's that?"

My motive for writing this blog post, though, has little to do with Libya or the country’s political future.  Gaddafi’s death had an impact on me because of what I observed take place right here in the United States.  When I woke up on Thursday and turned on the TV, I immediately saw the news of the dictator’s death on CNN.  I wanted to stay and continue to watch the coverage, but sadly, I had to catch a bus from north campus down to class.  Once on the bus, I mentioned to my friend about Gaddafi’s death; however, he responded with a blank look.  “Who’s that?”, he asked.  I was surprised that he didn’t know who he was, but I figured the buzz of the tyrant’s death would be circling around campus, filling up Facebook statuses, and would be the talk of all my classes.  It wasn’t.  I heard very few people on campus mentioning the event, saw little posts on social media sites, and witnessed no mention by my peers in my classes.

But why is that?  The issue was clearly a prevalent issue in the United States, as shown by the constant coverage on Thursday of the Libyan assassination on every major news station.  The theory that I have drawn from this situation, however, is that teens in America are withdrawing away from worldly affairs.  Now, there are obvious situations that prove this wrong, such as the genocide in Darfur or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (both of which have seen interest from teens in America), but seeing so many of my peers unaware of a dictator who ruled for over 40 years has made me think otherwise.  Even Gaddafi, himself, had an interesting perspective on Americans and our disinterest in the world:

Many Americans don’t know about the outside world. The majority have no concern and no information about other people. They could not even find Africa on a map.

This quote by Gaddafi is pretty extreme, and I think that most of us would disagree with it to most of an extent; however, maybe the recently-assassinated dictator has a point.  Are United States citizens not enough engaged in the world?  More specifically, is the American youth too disinterested in the events of the world?

This set of questions draws another set of questions revolving around an interesting topic: is it necessary for the American youth to show an interest in the events of the world?  That is, the American youth does not show an interest in worldly affairs, and perhaps, they shouldn’t.  Maybe the youth of America need to be focusing on domestic issues, such as fixing the economic troubles that reside in our nation or worrying about new tax reforms.  So, what do you think?  Does the youth of America need to show more interest and involvement in the events and problems of the world at large?

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14 Comments on “Bye-Bye, Gaddafi…wait, who?”

  1. bonannianthony Says:

    I enjoyed reading this post, and I learned of Gaddafi’s death around Thursday afternoon and had the same reaction when I went into class and asked a classmate if they heard about the death of Gaddafi. All I got in return was a “what are you talking about.”

    I personally enjoy reading about the news of the world; but I know I am in the vast minority of American teens who find global news interesting. This blog caught my eye because my grandfather and I were having a conversation similar to the questions being raised in this blog over the fall study break. He was telling me when he was a kid nearly everyone between the ages of 12 and 19 took an active role in learning about the daily news of the world. I find it hard to believe in a time where information is basically two clicks on an iphone away, there are so many current events we don’t know occur. This conversation along with this blog made me think of Appiah’s ideas on cosmopolitanism. Appiah said in order to be a cosmopolitan citizen we have to become citizens of the world. As a result, we, as American teens, should try to become more aware of international incidents and news stories.

    By learning more about international incidents and news stories it might help us become more aware of the issues in our country. For instance, with the financial crisis in Europe, specifically Greece we might be able to learn more about our own financial issues. Also, a lot of stories that are big time stories turn into international stories or vice versa. As teens, we should try to become more aware of international news and stories.

  2. ianbaker2041 Says:

    Like you, I found the lack of media and discussion regarding Gaddafi as somewhat disturbing. Since I’m looking at a political science major, of course I think it’s very important for ALL Americans to actively follow and seek to understand world affairs. Although this is probably an impossible dream, I do find the extreme lack of discussion about some issues bothersome and problematic.

    For a school that I normally consider to be fairly political, the lack of any discussion or expression of any kind since the dictator’s death makes me think that people find the Libyan Revolution is old news, a relic of history that is no longer worth discussing. This view genuinely scares me. Winston Churchill once said, “The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter,” and this quote seems all too relevant here. The same Americans who are seemingly not following world politics and international affairs are the same Americans who vote for our leaders. I want to have intelligent people leading our country, but this is only possible if the voters selecting leaders are informed as well. The point of democracy is to give the people the say regarding how to govern, but if the people don’t fulfill their side of the bargain (voting intelligently), it doesn’t work at all.

    There is also a broad sentiment abroad that Americans are not cultured and are unaware that a world does in fact exist outside their borders. This, too, bothers me because I would like to think that I follow world news well and understand a lot of complex issues better than many people. In high school, I spent a month one summer at a camp in Connecticut, and one night, a few French guys decided to declare that Americans don’t know anything about the world. “Stupid, arrogant losers” were his choice words. I still remember them because that made me pretty upset. These guys proceeded to quiz me on world capitals (since they thought anything else would be too hard for an American) until I had convinced them that I did in fact know something about the world outside our borders. While this story is somewhat stupid and trivial, it illustrates an important point: people from other places really DO think we’re unintelligent. That’s a problem because these are people whose support we desperately need, especially in the face of the rise of nations like India, China, and Brazil, power players looking for their share of the market. If we can’t convince other nations that our citizens are smart enough to elect good leaders, how can we ever expect them to follow us or even work with us at all?

    This isn’t an issue of education or anything like that. It’s an issue of personal responsibility. As an American citizen (or a citizen of any democracy, for that matter), do you feel obligated to follow world news so as to make informed votes? If you do, then that’s great. I fear that too many people, however, have answered that with a resounding “no,” leading to the problems that we face today regarding how much Americans actually know. It’s sad that many naturalized citizens know more about the United States than our own naturally-born ones do. Huge problem? I think so. Something that individuals could and should fix? Definitely.

  3. rachdavidson Says:

    I’m not sure that I agree that the american youth does not show interest in world affairs. If you think back to earlier this year when Osama Bin Laden was killed, facebook was FLOODED with statuses. College students stormed the streets. In Boston, my hometown, there were literally celebrations all throughout the night.

    It may just be that we are more interested in the matters that are publicized more efficiently. While yes, Gaddafi’s death took over the media on the day it happened, for the past 40 years it has not been the top news story. So, should we fault the media for our disinterest? For the complete ignorance of America’s youth?

    I think the more interesting question, however, is whether these worldly affairs should be more important than our domestic issues. On this I am torn. On the one hand, I think the United States has always prided themselves on being a world leader. If we want this title to actually represent everything, how can we not be involved in the events of the world? How can we not care about them, talk about them? Even know about them? But then again, how can we give our 100% to everyone else if at home we are broken with problems of our own? As the next generation of leaders, the decision of which to do kind of lies in our hand.

  4. springsteen1 Says:

    This is an incredibly interesting issue – what is covered, what is not covered i the media, why, and how much is it covered? In what ways? Does a story leak on social media as the biggest SM story yet, but get little traditional media coverage? Is it the top story in every major newspaper but gets zero or hardly any attention online? Generally, the two are streamlined, least of which because most major media organizations are on Twitter, Facebook, etc. so stories in print and online become part of a Facebook news feed or Twitter timeline.

    However, with stories such as this, I don’t think it’s a question of whether it was covered or not, but how much and in what ways. For example, Osama Bin Laden’s death hit social media long before traditional media, and the news was primarily spread through the use of these various communications apparatuses. However, when the rebels first started having their political issues in Feb (a week I happened to be at the White House for – more in subsequent blog post), Twitter and Facebook could talk of little else. Yet when he passed away, no, when he died, Thursday, every traditional media source had it long before the commensurate social media wave yet. Begs the question, is social media a valid news source? Why or why not? What makes a story interesting for newspapers, their online versions, and television channels (and that thing called the radio which I seem to be the only person to listen to) but not Facebook or Twitter yet? Why are almost all stories on both, but certain stories appear to have a distinctive edge or lean towards one or the other? Debate, if you please.

  5. guysnick Says:

    This post brings up an interesting point. I would agree that many American youths, as well as far too many American adults, are unaware of the happenings of their country and their world outside of their hometown or state. Of course, there are many, many people in the United States who know much about the current events of our times and about the political and economic changes occurring everyday. I would say that the majority of students here at the University of Michigan are aware of what is happening in Ann, Arbor, Washington, DC, and the broader world. But as this post addresses, there are way too many Americans who are not. This could be because they either do not have access to Internet or other important news broadcasts or because they are simply ignorant of the events taking place around the world. This is unacceptable.

    I remember that during my eighth grade American history class, my teacher would often show us polls conducted by newspapers or journals on the American populace and its knowledge of global affairs. One statistic from the poll that I found particularly startling was that when asked what was the most heavily fortified border in the world, something like 60% of Americans said the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Another appalling number of Americans who took part in the poll had no idea where France was when shown a map of the world. This, along with the concerns brought up in the post, is proof that too many Americans are negligent of what is happening outside of the U.S.

    This post is also relevant to Kwame Anthony Appiah’s ideas on cosmopolitanism and the conceptions of citizenship. The cosmopolitan is a citizen of the world. In order to be a so-called “global citizen,” we must be aware of what is going on outside of our hometown or state or country and recognize how events such the overthrow of Middle Eastern dictators like Gaddafi in Libya or the economic crisis in Europe or the upcoming presidential elections at home in the U.S. affect the world and shape the the global picture of our world in the 21st century. Recognizing and understanding the affairs of the world around us will make us more informed and learned citizens who are capable of leading our world in the future.

  6. parijog Says:

    I agree with the author of this post in that the majority of the American youth is lacking interest and engagement in international affairs. I am personally guilty of this, seeing as most of the news that reaches my eyes and ears comes from friends, facebook, of talk show hosts bent more on entertaining than informing. The last time I’ve sat down and actually read a newspaper (more than just the front page) is years in my past. While its is easy to blame my disregard toward world politics on a busy schedule, the truth is that there will always be something ‘better’ to do so long as reading up on current events remains a low priority. For me right now, I keep a news feed from BBC on my homepage, and tell myself that sometime soon, when I have, I will read all of those articles. Experience has demonstrated otherwise. When I get free time, the last thing I want to do is read more, and consequently, I don’t. With so much TV, gaming, and social entertainment readily available, it is hard to ‘waste’ free time with something one does not thoroughly enjoy.
    That being said, catching up on current events can manifest itself in many forms, from the news channel, to newspapers, to online editorials, blogs and videos. It is up to the individual to customize their exposure to these different forms of media so as to make the process as enjoyable as possible. I believe that if people (including myself) make a habit of exploring the many vehicles of current event exposure to find an avenue that works for them, staying up-to-date with current events will become a much more manageable goal.

  7. lmaren Says:

    It is a sad, disturbing truth that teens are so disconnected and disinterested with world news and political media. I have seen first-hand that most of my friends are very disconnected and unconcerned with what happens in the world also. Last weekend, I gave my friend some old economist magazines that have been piling up in my room (I subscribe for weekly issues). A couple of days later, she came up to me and told me that she had learned about and was shocked by the Euro crisis. She said that she had not even heard about it until she read about it in one of the magazines that I gave her. That was an interesting eye-opener for both of us. I was shocked she had not heard about it. And I think that she was shocked at herself as well. We continued our conversation and had a great discussion about the causes, solutions and problems about the eurozone. She was amazed that she had been so unaware of what was going on in Europe and she recognized that what happens to Europe will directly affect us. This is where the problem lies: what happens in the world will have an impact on us, but American teens are too preoccupied to care.

    I think that one can argue that it is not just the youth that seem disinterested. Many adults do not care either. Maybe the youth are just following their parent’s example. And I do not think that it is just foreign affairs that we are unconcerned with- that is, I do not think that many Americans are involved in or aware of domestic issues, either. Are people just tired of politics? That is a difficult question to answer. So many people seem wrapped up in the republican presidential debate. But at the same time, other people do not even know who is running! I do not think that the lack of discussion from teens about world affairs is because they are focusing on domestic issues.

    So to answer your question ‘should the American youth primarily focus on domestic issues,’ yes, of course they should. But that does not mean that they should ignore foreign affairs. The people who are interested in domestic and internal affairs are the same people who are just as involved and invested in foreign politics and events. I don’t think that it is an issue of what we should focus on, it is on who is focusing on it. All political issues are important and more people need to be more involved in foreign and internal affairs.

  8. madisonkraus Says:

    I definitely agree with the idea that American teens are less involved and educated about current world events. Although it’s not fair to make a broad generalization about everyone, because there certainly are students among us who are extremely passionate about current affairs, it does seem that interest in the news is low in our generation. I think when you go to a big school like Michigan, surrounded by 40,000 young adults, you’re life is occupied by what your age group considers important. We’re all worrying about what tests we have, what homework is due when, what we’re going to do this weekend, that things out of the spheres of work and socializing seem to take a lower priority. I know that I try to read the news every day, but that typically consists of me looking at the CNN homepage for about 5 minutes. I think that our access to technology changes the way we see the world. There are so many different media to hear about world events that we’re bombarded by constant updates. Compared to earlier generations, who got limited information and waited eagerly for news stories in the paper or on the radio, we’re spoiled with how much information we can access. Every 5 minutes there is a different breaking news story; so big events don’t seem as groundbreaking. I also think that compared to other generations, we feel much more removed from current events. Our parents and grandparents were passionate about issues because they affected their everyday life. If something went on in the world, they would be drafted and become a direct participant in a conflict. For us, we read about things happening in the world, and although we might feel sympathy, we don’t feel like issues will directly affect us so we move along with our day. While I do believe we should take time to inform ourselves about world issues, I don’t think our society is in danger of becoming ignorant as a whole. As we mature, and realize that there are more important things out there, we’ll realize that what goes on in the world should affect us. Once we leave the bubble of college life and enter the real world, I believe most people will make an active effort to stay up to date with the news. Additionally, at every age there are always citizens who are passionate about world issues, and continuously stay informed.

  9. sbsmoler92692 Says:

    I too, find it baffling that a vast majority of students have no idea what goes on in regards to outside affairs and current events. Some of the most “newsworthy” events are never even discussed within class and I have found this to be very upsetting. Especially within our political science class, I would hope that we could discuss this current affair and what it would mean for the future of Libya. Especially since we are now heading into the government and democracy unit of the class, where political theorists challenge how we should govern, it might have been interesting to discuss this topic or interrelate the news of Libya into the class.
    Though it is not absolutely mandatory and necessary for the youth of America to show an interest in the world and outside events that happen on a daily basis, I just feel that because technology makes it so easy to access news, there is no reason why such a technologically-savvy generation should not be able to keep up with current events. It is not fair to say that the youth of America should choose between an ultimatum of fixing and focusing on domesticated internal affairs as opposed to external affairs and current international events. They can do both, and at least show some interest in the globalization and current events in the world. This, at the very least, can help to establish a happy medium between not knowing what is going on and being too overly focused into worldly affairs as opposed to internal relations amongst our country.

  10. ndreynolds864 Says:

    This is an interesting observation and one that I totally agree with-that American teenagers today are less educated on worldly affairs. I didn’t start to get involved in the news until this past summer when I realized the news and politics can be as interesting as watching Sportscenter. I think American teenagers today focus less on boring news stations, television shows, and websites and focus more time on entertainment either be with video games, sports, and social media. This could potentially be problematic for democracy as we know it. Going back all the way to Menand at the beginning of the semester he argues that a functioning democracy needs educated individuals in order to participate. Without our younger generations being properly educated in worldly affairs how can we better our democracy? Or are our students just becoming increasing more educated in new areas of learning? The power of the democracy in the people and those people must be educated to contribute but if they aren’t educated in the correct subjects how does the democracy function.

  11. emmaknev Says:

    I definitely agree that the American Youth are not much concerned with world affairs; however, I think that it is important for teens to have knowledge about foreign affairs because the U.S.A is not an isolated country. Foreign affairs are unavoidable when considering domestic affairs because he world is intertwined, more-so nowadays than ever before because of globalization. What we as a nation do affects other nations, and vice-versa. Our domestic politics affect our foreign politics because any given nation may support us on one policy but not another. In this same sense, the things that other nations around the world do and are going through politically, economically, socially, etc,. have an impact on what we do because we have an obligation to respond. Our funds go towards helping other nations in need, and our citizens often risk their lives to help nations in poverty. So, even though I consider domestic and foreign affairs equally as important, foreign affairs are difficult to avoid when considering domestic affairs. Everything is connected, and I think that while it is great to know what’s going on in say the presidential election at home, it is equally as important to know what is going on in other countries worldwide.

  12. jeanrichmann Says:

    I am ashamed to say I would not have know who Gaddafi was if I had not read an article on his dictation in Libya, and his discrimination towards tribal affiliations for my anthropology class an hour ago. I agree with the fact that many members of the American youth are oblivious to foreign affairs, myself included. This is not to say that political and foreign affairs are not important, because they are. However, for many members of American youth, watching the news or reading the New York Times may fall towards the end of their long lists of tasks to complete. As a college student, my days are full of class and homework. When I have a few minutes of free time, I typically spend it relaxing, not catching up on what is going on in the world around me. This is a poor attitude to have.

    Members of the American youth should start to become more involved and aware of the political events occurring around them; this is important because they gain the right to vote and have a say in their political system. For this reason, it is the responsibility of American youth to understand what is going on around them so they can vote for the candidate who they believe will solve their political problems. I remember my 5th grade teacher addressing my class about the first time she was able to vote. She was so excited to vote for a presidential candidate, she neglected to research other candidates running for different political positions. In the end, she ended up voting for a person just because their name sounded better. I am sad to say that this is me. I am not aware of the politics around me, and it is my responsibility as a citizen to be knowledgable of this.

  13. jrsmyth177 Says:

    Great post! I strongly agree with the post. Sadly, I must say, I fall into the category of American teenagers who do not really know much about world affairs, but I have been improving lately. From my standpoint, I have more important things to do, like study, go to class, do homework, and extracurriculars. When I get some down time I would much rather watch Sportscenter or some crazy reality show on MTV, like Jersey Shore, than watch the news station. Occasionally I will read the news, and every time I find it very beneficial. When I came across an article on Gaddafi’s death I had no clue who he was, and no clue that Libya was in a civil war. It brought me a little more knowledge of what was going on in the world after reading the article. Teenagers, the next generation leaders, need this knowledge in order to be well prepared when they do eventually get jobs. In a few years we will be leaders of this globalized economy, and these foreign affairs will affect our everyday lives.
    I believe every American teenager should understand what is going on in foreign affairs. If they understand what is going on, then they will also help the country succeed in foreign affairs. The less people that know what is going on in world affairs, the less powerful America will be in this globalized economy. This past month I have really started to watch the news more and even read more articles, and I have found positive results from it. I feel that every teenager that reads the news frequently almost has a step up on other teenagers who would much rather fulfill their self-interest.

  14. Phil O'Donnell Says:

    Firstly, I believe that it is important that all American citizens eligible to vote, not just teenagers, should be adequately informed about international affairs and world issues. Despite many potentially claiming that due to America being a representative democracy, ordinary citizens should not have to be informed about these issues as they elect politicians to represent them and hence decide on these international issues for them. Yet, there is an endemic “Catch-22” problem which is that for the American populous to successfully elect a ‘good’ candidate to represent them in international relations and world affairs, then they must possess a basic understanding of current international issues or how else would they select a ‘good’ candidate at the ballot box?

    Further to this, many citizens could argue that they don’t believe American politicians need to be informed about international relations, due to them believing that domestic issues are far more important than foreign policy. This argument would claim some legitimacy if America had followed a strict isolationist policy pertaining to foreign affairs, yet America has undisputedly followed an interventionist policy for the last several decades. Hence, unless the US is going to adopt pure isolationism, American politicians require a basic understanding of international affairs and issues, due to, if nothing else, the financial implications of foreign wars and intervention. Thus, observing the aforementioned argument regarding the implications of representative democracy, it would seem logical that ordinary America citizens would require a basic understanding of international affairs and issues, for as long as America follows an interventionist foreign policy.

    So why do many Americans seemingly disregard this necessary basic understanding of foreign affairs and international relations? The simple answer, in my mind, is that of self-interest. Unless international affairs seemingly directly affect America or Americans why would they pay attention to them? The reason so many more Americans were interested in the murder of Bin Laden compared to the (alleged) murder of Gaddafi was that America is presently engulfed in the Afghanistan war and Bin Laden was held responsible for the deaths of innocent Americans in 9/11. Contrastingly, the death of Gaddafi seemingly has no direct implications for America, at the present time, or the lives of average Americans.

    Furthermore, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the principle of self-interest being applied to counter claims for extensive knowledge pertaining to international relations. Is understanding the specific events which transpired at Lockerbie going to help send a Midwest farmer’s kids to college or pay for their family vacation to Florida this year? It should be acknowledged that time is a scarce resource and Americans should be entitled to use this resource for their own advancement and personal gains.

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