Letter From New York August 19, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The sun continues to play hide and seek and it is still unseasonably cool in the Northeast; which makes for beautiful weather. I have called these days “Goldilocks” days, not too warm, not too cool, just right.  And today is one of those “Goldilocks” days.  Clear, sharp shadows splatter the gravel circle in front of the cottage.  It is only in the low 60’s with promises of greater warmth for the day.

I am sipping that incredibly important first coffee of the day after having just perused the headlines of the New York Times on my iPhone.  This is the last of the five consecutive days I have spent at the cottage, lost in the thrall of these “Goldilocks” days, able to feel detached from the world while surrounded by green comfort of the countryside.  While I have been here, events move on and I have viewed them dispassionately for the most part.

Yet, even cosseted in the country, I am not able to ignore events here and abroad.  They feel further away but that is emotional distance not real distance – real distance has been compressed to jet flight hours.  Yesterday a woman on her way to treatment for cancer fell sick in Dubai from what might have been Ebola.  The total death toll from that disease is now above 1200 and mounting with the day.  Those who have sickened but lived to tell the tale are treated with suspicion and fear when they return to their villages.

The fragile Gaza ceasefire seems to have been broken by rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns.  While the tension continues there, anti-semitism is rising in parts of Europe.  In France, Jews are leaving for other countries, many for Israel. In Germany, similar things are happening.  Since the war, a place where Jews have lived, for the most part in peace, there is a sense of shadows falling upon a population that once felt safe.  Hungary has been turning anti-semitic for some time now.  Generally tolerant Italy has seen businesses and synagogues defaced.  There are anti-semitic gatherings in the Netherlands.  Britain is on its way to recording its worst year of anti-semitic incidents in years.  Jews were blamed in Spain for the defeat of Soccer teams. A Belgian doctor refused to treat a Jew for a broken rib.  

Ancient hatreds rise to the surface, it seems, when events scratch away choreographed civility.  And it is shame that civility is choreographed.  Why can’t it be a part of the civil fabric?  Because we have not learned that the “outsider” is not the cause of our troubles?

In Ferguson, MO the National Guard was called out to maintain order.  31 were arrested; unrest continues, fueled by an apparently small number of agitators and outside disruptors.  The wounds of racism have not healed in Ferguson; apparently they were only papered over.  Michael Brown’s death ripped that away and fury erupted.  And it is likely that racism’s wounds still remain to be healed in much of this country.  We’ve come a long way but not as far as we could or should.  If we had, Ferguson might not have happened.

 

 

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