Letter From New York, December 31, 2009

Or:  As it seems to me…

It is the last day of 2009 and it’s a year that many will be glad to see the back of…it’s also the last day of the decade and I don’t know many who won’t be glad to see the back of the decade that the Financial Times of London called the “noughties.”   It started with a recession and ends with the Great Recession.  It was slammed in the face with 9/11 and ends with an attempted attack on an airliner as a reminder that there are individuals out there dedicated to killing great numbers of us, are willing to kill themselves to accomplish their desires and who have, it seems, a penchant for airliners.

The entire idea of flying has become even less attractive after this most recent incident and the measures being taken – not being able to leave your seat for the last hour of a flight, nothing on your lap – are bound to make air travel more difficult, more uncomfortable and less convenient, especially for those who use airplane flights to catch up on work on their laptops.  I expect a surge in video conferencing.

2009 was punctuated by the worst economic landscape in generations.  I heard yesterday that real unemployment hovers around 17%, almost double the official unemployment figure – many have surrendered to unemployment and have given up looking.  Or are severely underemployed.  It is a landscape unlike any I have experienced in my lifetime.  Reading the Time Magazine that named Ben Bernanke “Man of the Year” I came away believing that were it not for the extraordinary, albeit imperfect, measures taken by the Fed we would be living in a far worse situation.  We might well be living in the second Great Depression rather than the Great Recession.

We have a decade of faces that punctuate the landscape.  Start with Osama Bin Laden, supposedly resting in a cave somewhere in the rough landscape of Afghanistan/Pakistan who has lead Islamic extremists in their hatred of America and from his low tech haven has orchestrated acts of hate against us, including the most recent attempted attack on the Christmas Day airliner.  To many, it is hard to even begin to comprehend the depth of hatred these people have for America and everything about it.  Yet it is real, it is there and must be dealt with.

On the other end of the decade the other face that dominates the landscape is that of Barack Obama, President of the United States, the first African-American to hold the nation’s highest office, whom, by his election, has caused the world to stop and reassess our country.  It will be fascinating to watch to see if this man, elected with such hope, can come close to fulfilling the expectations placed on his shoulders with his elevation to the Presidency.

Against this backdrop of economic pain and international terror, there have been interesting things to note – there seems to be, it seems to me, a heightened sense of sensitivity to our fellow man, an acknowledgement we are all in this together and we best be kind to one another.

While the wars we are engaged in may be unpopular, we have not made the tragic mistake of the Viet Nam era of blaming the soldiers.  Instead, they are respected even if their returning home is fraught with negative aftereffects.  Post traumatic stress is taking a huge toll among those who are returning and we are faced with the tragic consequences of our conflicts in the severely wounded who are amongst us, men and women who might not have survived in other conflicts, saved by the valiant efforts of their fellow soldiers, medics and technology never before available.

It is a daunting landscape, dominated by war and recession.   Yet there are some small encouraging signs about the economy and, perhaps, some signs of stabilization in Iraq even while Afghanistan seems more frightening than ever while Pakistan is a wild card where events could shape the future more than anywhere.

And yet… we are alive and with life there is hope and hope, which springs eternal in the human heart, is the stuff by which we live and we will, I hope, enter 2010 in hope and see that emotion realized in concrete events and actions.

Happy New Year!  Thank you for reading.

2 Responses to “Letter From New York, December 31, 2009”

  1. Gennaro Says:

    Very touching and true. Thank you for reminding me that we are in this together!

  2. thatdogdonthunt Says:

    Insightful. Something tells me we’ve been here before, though. I”m just glad I have the cognitive ability to recognize how utterly fascinating life is. I hope to use that revelation to its fullest. By the way, we share a couple of things: this blogosphere: WordPress and friendship with Howard Bloom. I consider him a “new” friend actually. Met him for the first time in New York in late November…communicating electronically with him at least once/week. I’m a new fan of some of his passions as well, including SBSP (Space Based Solar Power). I look forward to reading more of your blogs. Come over and say Hello in mine when time allows.

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