Letter From New York May 12, 2009

Letter From New York
May 10, 2009

The economic news is not so grim; there are signs of hope. The number of jobless did not grow as fast as most expected. In certain hard hit areas of the country, real estate seems to have begun bottoming out – places like Las Vegas, Florida and Sacramento. Hope is stirring in the country though the recovery will most likely be anemic; the entire economy is beginning to change, shifting from all out spending to something different – more akin to the world of most folks’ grandparents; a life of conscious non-consumption. Saving seems to be the new cool in America. Which also is probably ecologically correct.

The banks have been going through “stress tests” and all are solvent now and all they have to do is raise just $75 billion by November. Since when did $75 billion become “just $75 billion”? Well, this is an age where we are now talking about trillions of dollars so I guess $75 billion is “just” a little compared to a trillion dollars.

We seem to have survived swine flu – there are thousands of cases but we seem to have escaped the terror of a world pandemic. The global community seems to have managed this one well, with special kudos to Mexico who did a heck of a lot better with swine flu than China did with SARS a few years back — though we have to admit the Mexican drug wars aren’t pretty. Maybe our economic downturn will depress the demand for illicit substances and therefore help. Or not.

While not being felled by a pandemic, the Taliban/Al Qaeda/whoever fundamentalist Muslim group seems to be taking over more of Pakistan – a country with nuclear arms. I am more worried about this than I was a pandemic. Imagine what suicide bombers could do with a mini-nuke strapped around themselves. Doesn’t comfort me when I fall asleep.

As I write this Mother’s Day is coming to a close; walking the streets of New York there were a seemingly never ending series of placards outside restaurants offering Mother Day brunches though none of the restaurants looked overflowing – another sign of the carefulness of our new age. It was during this week that Elizabeth Edwards released her book RESILIANCE, depicting both her courageous battle against cancer and her reactions to her husband’s infidelity. Based on the reviews of the book, it will be a long time to forgiveness. While John Edwards is looking like a cad, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s Prime Minister, who is probably a genuine cad, is being applauded in his country for his dalliances. His wife excoriated him in public while that public thought, apparently, it was quite wonderful that their 70 something PM was capable of bedding a number of women other than his wife, including, apparently, an eighteen year old who delights in calling him “daddy.” Europeans and Americans are far apart in the way they view infidelity. We have a puritanical view and Europeans shrug their shoulders or delight in it. Mitterrand’s mistress and his daughter from that liaison attended his funeral and stood near his family during the services. Such a thing would not happen in America.

Perhaps in the future of STAR TREK. A new film in the franchise seems to have rebooted it and brought excitement back to the forty-year-old phenomenon. I will be seeing it this week and am eager for the new take on the franchise, a mythic story which has given us an opportunity to dream of a future that could be better, where we have mastered our earthbound demons and are now concentrating on facing the process of integrating ourselves not with those who are truly different yet somehow like us.

We have a long way to go here on earth. Two little boys killed themselves this past week because they were taunted by their peers who called them “fags” and “gays” which they might have grown up to be – or not. We won’t know because the pain they were in resulted in their ending that pain in the most final way. It is my hope that we can move beyond that kind of behavior before we begin to travel the star lanes to other worlds.

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