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Too Young 8 min read

Too Young

It's been 10 years since the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and 25 years since Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and DMB released songs that defined the late-90s. Plus UFOs, Joe Rogan, SpaceX & the NFL Draft.

By Cary Littlejohn
Too Young Post image

It’s been a week since I learned of the news that one of my classmates from Mizzou had died. Aviva Okeson-Haberman was just 24 years old when she died as a result of a gunshot wound. A bullet, fired senselessly and recklessly no doubt, came through the window of her first-floor apartment in Kansas City and took her life.

I saw what felt like an endless stream of tweets sharing not only sorrow and disbelief over what happened but also love and appreciation for a genuinely beloved person. I didn’t feel it was right to weigh in because what else was there to say? I wasn’t close enough to her to have such stories, but I knew her well enough to know those shared were 100% true. She was the a TA in one of the first classes I took at Mizzou. She was an immensely talented audio journalist, and this much was discernible even in those early days on campus when I didn’t yet know my way around. She gave edits and advice to those of us just starting out, and because of that, she felt older and more mature than her years. That was saying something coming from me, because I was so much older than almost every other student. So when I read that headline, and how it ended with “…dies at 24,” I was just incredibly shaken up.

For two reasons. The first is obvious; 24 is too young. It’s as simple as that. It becomes even more so when you listen to the testimonials from her closest friends and colleagues. Not only were family and friends robbed, but so were those who lived in wherever Aviva had worked and would have worked in the future. She was relentlessly dedicated to not only the craft of journalism but its mission in its purest form. The world in general and the profession of journalism specifically is poorer for her untimely death., and I, like so many others, am honored to say that I knew her.

The second reason is the senselessness of it all. It’s so random, isn’t it? One in a million (Billion? Trillion? Pick your ridiculously large number) chance, and just the worst possible luck. Yet she’s the second of my classmates from the journalism school to be struck through a window by a stray bullet. Another brilliant young woman. Luckily, she lived. I was only in the school for two years, and in the grand scheme of things, I only met so many people, you know? It’s not a limitless number. It’s a countable one. It’s nowhere near millions or billions or trillions, and still two of them were met with senseless cruelty. It saddens me and sickens me, and in the aftermath of it, I’m struck by feelings of the pointlessness of guns. We don’t need them.

I felt that so acutely. Doubtlessly, there will be many who read these words and disagree. That’s fine. I’m not writing them to change minds.  But I just can’t help but think about how strongly those feelings washed over me, and the catalysts were, most charitably defined, accidents. These two brilliant, young journalists weren’t shot because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time; they were in their homes. They weren’t shot on purpose. They weren’t even knowingly shot. It’s sickening to think about how much time passed before the persons who pulled the triggers even learned of the effects, to wonder if they wondered, “Was that the result of my hand?”

Aviva’s death came after a recent spate of mass shootings in this country, the type that couldn’t claim to have been as random and senseless and unexpected. They were the results of determined shooters, people with specific intent to cause harm (and lots of it).

I can’t even begin to imagine how the friends and families of those victims felt about guns and gun violence in the aftermath. I think I’ve blocked out a lot of the specific pleas for change and reform because I intuitively agreed with them already and hearing the pain and anguish in their voices was too much. But after another senseless act of gun violence striking so close, I think I need to make it a point to listen more closely to those victims after the next (sadly inevitable) mass shooting takes place. Not to have my mind changed; their words don’t need to do that work. I just feel like I understand a little better how they feel, and there’s some sense of solidarity in that. They deserve my attention; it’s the least I can do.

Ten Worth You Time

  1. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Operation Neptune’s Spear, otherwise known as the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Politico’s Garrett Graff, the author of a remarkable oral history of Sept. 11, tells the oral history of the mission from top U.S. officials from the White House, CIA headquarters and Afghanistan. Oral histories aren’t my favorite format, but Graff has made a name for himself due to the form.

  2. Relatedly, there’s a new season of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast. For those who haven’t listened to the previous seasons, go back and dive deep into wildly different topics but all incredibly well told. Watergate, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. rivalry, and former KKK leader David Duke are the subjects of the previous seasons, and this season is all about the road to the Iraq War. It’s two episodes into its run, and they’ve both been really good.

  3. I rewatched Eugene Jarecki’s documentary Why We Fight, which looks at America’s military-industrial complex through the lens of the war in Iraq after 9/11. I watched the episode on Amazon Prime Video, but you can stream it in its entirety on Youtube

  4. It’s been a big few weeks for SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space-travel company. In the wee hours of this morning, SpaceX Crew-1 NASA astronauts landed in thefirst nighttime splashdown since 1968. SpaceX completed its first mission to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station; the mission began six months ago. “We welcome you back to planet Earth, and thanks for flying SpaceX,” Michael Heiman, a SpaceX mission control official, told the astronauts. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flier program, you have earned 68 million miles on this voyage.” Read more about the successful landing here. Two weeks ago, NASA selected SpaceX to land astronauts on the moon as a part of its new Artemis Program, which will land the first woman on the moon.

  5. Elon Musk is secondary to this story where an Atlantic writer tries to figure out a possible explanation for podcaster Joe Rogan’s popularity.  He uses as an example one of Rogan’s most widely viewed/listened to episodes ever, the one with Elon Musk where they both get high together. The piece is a broad examination of Rogan’s worldview as best as it can be determined, and it’s incredibly timely as Rogan drew condemnation (more than usual amounts, that is) after he basically said healthy adults don’t need the COVID-19 vaccine. (Spoiler: Yes, they do.) But what’s at the root of such popularity that makes his platform so large and important that figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci had to comment on his comments? That’s harder to explain, though the author tries mightily:

    The bedrock issue, though, is Rogan’s courting of a middle-bro audience that the cultural elite hold in particular contempt—guys who get barbed-wire tattoos and fill their fridge with Monster energy drinks and preordered their tickets to see Hobbs & Shaw? Joe loves these guys, and his affection has none of the condescension and ironic distance many people fall back on in order to get comfortable with them. He shares their passions and enthusiasms at a moment when the public dialogue has branded them childish or problematic or a slippery slope to Trumpism. Like many of these men, Joe grumbles a lot about “political correctness.” He knows that he is privileged by virtue of his gender and his skin color, but in his heart he is sick of being reminded about it. Like lots of other white men in America, he is grappling with a growing sense that the term white man has become an epithet. And like lots of other men in America, not just the white ones, he’s reckoning out loud with a fear that the word masculinity has become, by definition, toxic.

  6. For all the podcasts that I consume, Rogan’s has never been one of them. But apparently he’s big into conspiracy theories. In The Atlantic piece, he reunites with Alex Jones of Info Wars and just lets him rant about whatever. A topic that Rogan has apparently given some time and thought to is UFOs, as I learned recently in The New Yorker. Rogan’s just a blip in this story, but he and the main subject of this article shared a common point of argument: There is actually a lot of quite convincing, serious-minded data out there supporting the existence of UFOs. From the piece:

    Kean is always assiduously polite toward the “U.F.O. people,” although she stands apart from the ufological mainstream. “It’s not necessarily that what Greer was saying was wrong—maybe there have been visits by extraterrestrials since 1947,” she said. “It’s that you have to be strategic about what you say to be taken seriously. You don’t put out someone talking about alien bodies, even if it might be true. Nobody was ready for that; they didn’t even know that U.F.O.s were real.” Kean is certain that U.F.O.s are real. Everything else—what they are, why they’re here, why they never alight on the White House lawn—is speculation.

  7. An interesting pre-NFL Draft piece about the phenomenon of tumbling draft picks. In this instance, it was widely rumored before the draft began that Ohio State’s Justin Fields’s stock was dropping, from what used to be a No. 2 QB selection behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. The predictions turned out to be right; Fields ended up being the fourth QB taken, andthis piece from The Ringer looked at what accounted for some of the negative scrutiny ahead of the draft.

  8. It’s the 25th anniversary of music that defined my childhood, namely my high school years. The music was a few years old by that point, but it was those heady years where we spent so much time with music, thinking about what it said about us and the world around us. Two separate pieces in The Ringer caught my attention. One was about the rap classic “Tha Crossroads,” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, which my friends and I loved without reservation. I remember the weekend of my first football game as a college student. We’d gone to Oxford, MS, to see my Memphis Tigers play Ole Miss, and that night, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony played a show at an Ole Miss frat house, and the highlight of the night was “Tha Crossroads.” The song was 10 years old at that point, and it was the one song everybody had to hear before they left. The other piece was a celebration of the Dave Matthews Band’s second studio album, Crash, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved that album. The last time I saw DMB play was probably six or seven years ago, and even all those years after the height of their fame, songs from that album were some of the biggest hits of that concert.

  9. An important case is before the U.S. Supreme Court, and it deals with an issue we knew would be upon us eventually. Can a school punish a student for speech that occurs online and not at school, if that speech could affect the educational process at school? In today’s age of lives lived so very publicly online, it will be an interesting case for the Court to decide, and NPR’s Nina Totenberg gives an early recap of the oral arguments.

  10. Last week the world saw a truly bonkers ending to the 93rd Academy Awards show, when producers rearranged the show’s order to capitalize on what they thought was a sure thing: a win for Chadwick Boseman. Except he didn’t win. And the result was an awards show that felt like it just disintegrated before yours eyes. But as I said last week, it’s such a strange moment of transition for the Oscars: a TV show about the enduring appeal of movies that was mostly streamed over the internet. So what about the future of those movies going forward, as word came this week that NYC would be reopening at full-capacity this summer? Movie theater experience will look different, argues The Atlantic. Some of the changes seem exciting, but will enough people care?