Hello world!

Letter From New York
January 4, 2009

Come Tuesday evening, 12th Night, the Holiday Season will come to a close and whether or not we leave our trees up longer, the world will expect us to ramp back up into our everyday selves and manage what it is we do on a day to day basis.  I don’t know anyone who is sorry to see 2008 slip into the wake of time.  However, knowing what we’re facing as a world and as a country, I am not facing 2009 with unadulterated excitement.

Sitting at my computer, perusing stories from around the world, gathered neatly together by the home pages of some of my favorite sites, I found it not comforting that the world didn’t take a pause from its violent ways for the Holidays.  The violence in the Gaza strip is particularly disheartening – it could be the birthing of a whole new Intifada, a word that means “shaking off” in Arabic and one that has taken on rebellion as its meaning.  To me, far and away when I hear the word, I now know we are in for trouble and that many will die. While I have been writing this, Israeli troops and Hamas forces have engaged on the ground in Gaza, deepening the crisis there.

I have written before of the duality of our race, capable of such generosity and at the same time capable of such horrible deeds.  The past year has revealed us in all those ways – and the horrible didn’t include just acts of physical violence.  The Madoff Affair is the pinnacle of the mountain of greed that shadowed us for the last decade or more.  Mumbai reminded us that terrorism is everywhere and can be very focused in its victims – westerners, Jews living in India, the wealthy.  The work of the Mumbai terrorists was on a par with what we expect from our elite Navy Seals in terms of organization, speed, and ability to strike without warning.

After almost six long years, the U.S. is slowly beginning to hand over control of Iraq’s cities to the Iraqis. Forward Operating Base Callahan has now reverted to its pre-war name:  Sha’ab Market.  Allah willing it will again be a market.  The slow departure from Iraq has begun, quietly, with relatively little fanfare here, hopefully an orderly pullout that will allow Iraq to transition to a functioning country.  God willing.  Yet while violence as a whole is down, a female suicide bomber killed dozens of worshipers at the Kadhimiyah shrine, a holy place to Shiites on Sunday.

People that I know are not eager to return to work as they are frightened of the scene to which they will return.  Economic news is grim and for the last ten days reality has been held at bay by the warm glow of holiday spirits.  Now the sobering future is upon us.  The Governors of many our 50 states are petitioning President Elect Obama for a trillion dollars in state aid, to help get the state and national economies moving.  We are becoming inured to the word trillion.  Senator Everett Dirksen, of the mid 20th Century, once said: A billion here, a billion there and soon you’re talking real money.  We are in sight of the day when someone will say, a trillion here, a trillion there…

As we depart the Holiday season and move into the inevitable future, everyone who has a job is grateful and those who do not are hopeful that an Obama administration will be able to handle the financial tsunami that is engulfing us. Gradually, over the last year, most of us have come to think of America at the brink of something bad and are looking for someone to lead us back. On Saturday as I did errands, I heard the weekly radio address from President Bush and the counterpoint from President Elect Obama.  What struck me were not the words they said but the tenor of the voices speaking, President Bush sounded exhausted, as beaten down as some of his fellow countrymen.  Obama sounded alive, confident, hopeful, focused – all the things we are desperately going to need in the next months and years.

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