Letter From New York August 17, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The sun has been an inconsistent friend these last few days; mostly the days are grey with brief moments of satisfying sun pouring through the trees around the cottage.  

The cottage encourages contemplation.  While I have been here, I have not paid as much attention as I normally do to the world around me.  It has seemed distant, faraway, events of the week feel as if they are taking place on a distant planet. All here is calm, placid, the beat of ordinary life going on peacefully, tranquilly.  An evening passed with neighbors and while we acknowledged the world outside, most of our conversation was about our little world:  the circle where the cottage resides, the little town of Claverack and the big city of Hudson.  We talked of golfing days and high school reunions, of neighbors and local politics.  It was intensely rich.

But not so far away, things are happening, things that are deeply disturbing.  A handbook will be written on what not to do after a police shooting, based on what has happened in Ferguson, MO.  A tragic event spiraled into a chaotic melange of toxic negativity.  Photos showed what has happened with the militarization of police in America.  Awash after 9/11 with funds from the Department of Homeland Security, police departments across the country armed themselves to the teeth but for the most part the country didn’t see it – until Ferguson.  Police officers looking like combat troops stormed through the streets of the town, fueling the flames of rage by their presence.  A mishandled tragedy produced more violence and piled wrong upon wrong.

Protests became riots, protestors devolved into looters.  Patrolling police became riot squads.  Some calm returned when the Ferguson police were replaced by State Troopers.  Last night though, despite a curfew, seven were arrested and one shot, critically.  It will now take a long time for this to heal with hopes that all learn from this series of tragedies.

Tragedies.  Our world is full of tragedies.  In Africa the Boko Haram have now abducted about a hundred men and boys, demonstrating their abilities to cross great swaths of Nigeria with impunity, unhindered by the military.  In neighboring Liberia, the Ebola dead are being abandoned where they lie.  Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are vastly under resourced to cope with the ravages of the disease and it looks to be months before the outbreak is contained.  

Spin the globe and arrive in the cradle of civilization.  American airstrikes have broken the siege of Mount Sinjar, letting the religious minorities there to flee into Kurdish territory or to parts of Iraq not gobbled up by ISIS.  The Kurds will likely get Western Arms to fight ISIS, who have been successfully using the materiel left behind by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.  

Arms and death seem to be how resolutions are being reached.  A fragile cease fire exists this moment between Hamas and Israel, with peace talks ongoing in Cairo.  One set of proposals has already been shot down by Hamas.

It seems difficult to find hope and happiness in all this malaise.

But yesterday, as I was driving, I heard a TED Talk on NPR.  The speaker was saying we humans are hard wired for happiness, that we find ways, despite all, to find happiness in our lives. 

If only we were hard wired for peace.

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