Letter From New York 12 30 14 The changing landscape around us…

Just as I sat down to write today, a veritable herd of deer crossed the yard, followed by one straggler who was obviously hurt, bounding as best she could on three legs while the rest were far ahead. It was touching and I instinctively wanted to run out and see what I could do for her – but I wouldn’t know and she is now long gone.

The sun is setting in the west; today, unlike the days before, was bright and sunny with brilliant cheer, chill but definitely not Minnesota cold. My brother told me it would be seven below there this morning. I woke to twenty-seven degrees. All the snow is gone now; the world looks more like a barren fall landscape than a winter wonderland.

The year is ending and everyone seems to be coming up with a top ten list, some of winners, some of losers but magazines are counting. Deadline Hollywood came up with part of its top ten films, which included FURY, UNBROKEN, AMERICAN SNIPER and Rory Kennedy’s documentary, LAST DAYS IN VIET NAM. Four of the five were war movies, which seems to have been on our mind this year.

It’s not surprising; we have been living with war for a long time now. Afghanistan is formally over and done but there are still boots on the ground and NATO still has a presence. Iraq and Syria burn and we have, of course, the Boko Haram in Africa.

Steven Pinker, author of THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE, argues that overall violence is down from where it has historically been. This morning in The Times that sentiment was echoed with the caveat that because of Syria and Ukraine there has been an uptick in the last year but that there are “only” something like eleven conflicts happening when there used to be dozens.

Perhaps it just seems to be more to us in America because we have had Iraq and Afghanistan for so long and they don’t seem to be going away. We’ve had to face ISIS this last year, too. But all in all, over the course of my lifetime, it appears that overall violence has declined and while I find that hard to believe sometimes, the empirical evidence seems to point that way.

And that is good.

Now there is a pink tinge to the sky as the light of the day begins to fail; the bare trees claw the sky and make for a magic scene out the windows by my desk. It is a perfect time for contemplation and thought; soft jazz plays in the living room on Pandora.

Lights are beginning to come on around the neighborhood, soon the automatic lights will snap on as the dark descends.

As I sit in this bucolic setting, I say a quiet prayer for the families of the people on the lost Air Asia flight. Bodies and wreckage have been found; another Malaysian linked plane has been lost, the third this year.

My mind also goes to Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident who was given a suspended sentence for fraud. Thousands gathered in Moscow to protest the sentence and he joined them and was arrested again. It is suspected he was given a suspended sentence to avoid his becoming a political martyr. Putin has taken on all the powers of the Tsar, Autocrat of all the Russias. He just hasn’t crowned himself. Perhaps before it’s done, he’ll follow the example of Napoleon and put the crown on his own head.

Ah, darkness has fallen. The automatic lights have clicked on. I must go and prep for dinner with friends, in the seemingly unending string of dinner and cocktail parties.

Tomorrow, I must make a decision as to which of the two parties to which I am invited I will attend to ring out the old and bring in the new. Not bad decisions to have to make.

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