Letter From New York

September 16, 2013

Or, as it seems to me…

It is early Monday morning as I begin to write this, riding the train back down into the city, a grey day, rain falling softly, chill with the first leaves turning.  I am wearing both a sweater and a jacket; last night I had the first fire in the old Franklin stove.  Tonight there may be frost in the Hudson Valley; the seasons are changing.

The anniversary of 9/11 has come and gone again, with its reading of names and somber remembrances.  It felt less raw this year to me, less time spent catapulted back to that day, to the raw emotions of shock, surprise, hurt and confusion.  Though I say that, I know I will never be free from that day nor, I think, will any New Yorker who lived through that experience.  Sudden loud noises still cause me to jump.  I have learned to be watchful traveling about the city.  I ride the ends of subway trains, not the middle because for I deem them safer from any terrorist bombers.  Wouldn’t they want to ride the middle of the train where they might do the worst damage?

So I am changed by that day, forever and always, as, I suspect, is everyone who lived through it, in some way carrying a bit of post-traumatic stress with us as we continue to plow forward into the future.

We have seen in a week the stunning turn around in Syria from imminent bombing to a tortured diplomacy that hopefully will succeed in depriving Assad of his chemical weapons without a missile being fired.  It’s a stretch to hope this but a stretch we have committed to taking and one that resonates with a country that is weary, weary as we were, perhaps, when Viet Nam was winding down, exhausted by the expenditure in lives and fortune for muddy goals not completely achieved.

When asked this week how I was by an old friend with whom I had not talked in awhile, I responded that my life, compared with 99% of the world was pretty miraculous, which it is.  I don’t live in the suburbs of Damascus.  I am riding a train down to New York through some of the most beautiful countryside America has to offer, the grey light glinting off the magnificent Hudson.  I have health and am successfully navigating my recuperation from arthroscopic surgery on my knee, not too bad but not quite the walk in the park the doctor made it sound.

Yet, like many Americans, perhaps most Americans, I have a sense of ennui.  As we felt as Viet Nam wore down, we are tired and there is a sense of travail.  We have endured ten years now of war in far off places.  We are still weathering the Great Recession, an economic downturn that narrowly avoided being another Great Depression.  We have been dodging bullets, literally and figuratively, and we are weary from it.

Yet we rebounded from the ennui that came at the end of Viet Nam, the oil crisis, the roiling inflation of the 1970’s, the shock upon the body politic of Watergate, a President resigning and the horrible fashion choices of the era.  We survived that, we survived the Yuppie 1980’s and we will survive all this and return to a sense of forward movement.

It is easy when we are in such moods to chat about the decline of America and we are in such a mood.  We have survived ten very difficult years, leaving us questioning much, just as we did at the end of Viet Nam.  We will question for a while yet and we will come up with answers.

I believe the national spirit will revive and prosper.  We have some very challenging and exciting times coming toward us.  There is some economic revival, we have a pause in Syria, the country is barreling toward the moment when whites will be the minority and that will reshape the country in ways we have yet to discover.

On this grey, chill day, I feel the warmth of optimism, wondering what the future will hold, for the country and for me.

 

 

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