Letter From New York July 20, 2014

Letter From New York

July 20, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…


A gentle rain fell last night in the Hudson Valley, ushering in a gently beautiful day. Not too warm, not too cold, a Goldilocks sort of day, sun glimmering off the creek as well as the small puddles left behind by the night’s rain. The deck is freshly stained, gleaming in the day’s light.

It is another bucolic day in Claverack.

It is not bucolic in much of the rest of the world. The past week has been haunted by the loss of MH17 over eastern Ukraine, a civilian passenger jet shot down by a surface to air missile, apparently by pro-Russian separatists who apparently bragged about having brought down the plane and then removed their social media boasts once they started to realize they may have hit a civilian plane.

According to reports I have read, Euro Control approved the flight plan for the plane; it is one of the generally used flight ways from Europe to the Far East. American airlines have been warned away from that route; I am sure none will be flying it now. Too late.

Nearly three hundred are dead, including eighty children, a leading AIDS researcher, an Australian novelist, a Dutch Senator, a cross section of humanity caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, their bodies scattered across nine square miles of contested land, some strangely intact, some ripped apart, all dead and gone in an instant, hopefully.

We are all appalled. The Russian propaganda machine has come up with all kinds of conspiracy stories, some that are completely bizarre but all of them pointing to others to blame. One pro-Russian separatist told a British journalist that this was all the fault of the Queen.

So it goes in the increasingly strange world in which Russia lives.

These seem almost apocalyptic times, with the chaos that is Iraq, that cradle of civilization, a Caliphate declared over parts of Syria and Iraq by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The Kurds move toward autonomy. Iraq as we knew it seems destined for disintegration. War rages in Gaza. Rockets fall in Israel. And innocents die in all these places.

It seems hard to realize that innocents are dying in all these places when a soft wind is blowing through the Hudson Valley and lovely meals are being consumed in open air cafes with good food, good company and good conversation, often avoiding the painful topics of what is happening in the world because there seems to be so little we, as individuals, can do to alter the events. They seem out of our control. We can decry what is happening but what can we do to change what is happening?

Sitting here in the quiet of the cottage, I don’t honestly know. I can write my Congressmen and Senators on domestic issues about which I have an opinion but would Putin heed a letter from Claverack when he seems to pay little attention to the President of the United States?

But the downing of a civilian airliner seems to be coalescing European opinion into a united front of condemnation, something that they have not done. European interests are closely intertwined with Russia, provider of natural gas to much of the continent. It seems to be taking a tragedy for them to take a stand.

The digital front page of the New York Times this morning is splattered with news of the downed aircraft. The world is reeling from its loss. We depend upon our air lanes to move us to and from – they should be safe from what is happening on the ground but they no longer are. We are confronted by what modern weapons can do in overeager hands. This is no suicide bombing with an improvised device.

As we sit in our bucolic places on a warm summer’s day, the world grows more dangerous.


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