Letter From New York September 02, 2014

Or, as it seems to me… 

I learned a hard lesson yesterday; I wrote a blog directly on WordPress and then there was a glitch and all my eloquent words disappeared into digital dust. So I have learned to draft in Word and copy and paste into WordPress. A small lesson.

I was writing about how beautiful it was but how the leaves had begun to change – fall is no longer far away. You can reach out and touch it.

My mind was focused on the dichotomy between the sylvan beauties of the cottage here in Claverack and the harsh realities when you get away from this little spot. Not so far away Hudson is transforming itself into a quaint town, full of gentrified housing and charming shops and galleries. In twenty-five years, I suspect the town will be rather like Provincetown without the Atlantic.

But that doesn’t change the fact there is poverty in Hudson now and that some of it seems intractable. It’s not the kind of poverty you witness in India but it is hardscrabble for America.

Go a little further afield and you find that Ferguson, MO is still restless and wounded after the shooting of the unarmed Michael Brown. A call for a traffic stoppage mostly didn’t materialize yesterday, at the request of Michael’s father. The death of young Michael Brown has caused America to pause and think about the state of race relations. Have we really come all that far?

African-Americans make up the majority of inmates in prisons. They have higher incidences of poverty. They are more likely to get harassed by the police.

I was at a conference in Washington, DC not so long ago, hosted by Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization. In one of the sessions, the founder of Sojourners, Jim Wallis, asked the audience to look into their hearts to see what private prejudices they maintained. And looking into my heart, I was not innocent. Underneath the surface, it took an extra beat to push back the societal prejudices, not to mention some familial prejudices, that I was raised with – while I might not act upon those thoughts, I still had those thoughts, enough that I sometimes consciously had to batten them down.

I don’t like that.

But it is real. And I suspect is realer than we would really like to admit.

It is nearing the end of the day and reports are filtering out that ISIS, the tightly organized group that is carving out a rogue state, an Islamic Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, has beheaded another American, Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist captured in Syria. Another atrocity in a region filled with atrocities, lands now overflowing with refugees and where suicide bombings seem like a daily event. A world away from the quiet of Patroon Street in Claverack, NY but still in and of my world.

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