Letter from Claverack, New York Thinking about a boy in Aleppo…

I am cozied in the cottage, the Smooth Jazz station playing on Amazon Prime Music, having returned only two hours ago from two days in the city.

Yesterday, I was in the city to have lunch with my friend David Arcara, a quarterly event for many years now; our conversations are wide ranging, deep, emotional and to the core of what is happening in our lives.  Yesterday’s underscored my appreciation for them.

There were drinks last night with Nick Stuart of Odyssey and Greg Nelson, formerly of Odyssey, who has returned from some weeks in Peru and that, too, was good. It gave me a chance to catch up with Greg, whom I have not seen for some months and, of course, to spend some time with Nick, my great friend.

When I woke this morning, I made my morning coffee at the apartment on the Upper West Side, and while sipping it, pursued the news of the day.  I read the NY Times and scrolled through the BBC News.

There I found a haunting image of a five-year-old Syrian boy in Aleppo, an image that has now gone viral.  Frightened and alone, covered in blood and dust, he sat on an orange seat in the back of an ambulance.  You may have seen the picture already.  If not, here it is:

Boy

It shattered my morning.  I sat staring at this image for many, many minutes and my heart screamed to the universe.  It became hard to move on, to not want to go and do SOMETHING to stop the madness.  It reminded me of pictures I had seen taken during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s; comparisons between that conflict and this will be made.

Later, I went to have lunch at the Ace Hotel with my friend David McKillop; we talked of new, upcoming adventures for him.  We talked of the: what WERE they thinking? moment of Ryan Lochte and the other swimmers claiming to have been robbed when in reality they were a bit drunk and screwed up. What were they thinking?

And, unfortunately, this is what will follow them for the rest of their lives, this moment of dishonesty.

And then, there was the moment of what was President Obama thinking when he said that the $400,000,000 turned over to the Iranians wasn’t “ransom” but a previously scheduled release of funds.  Today it was revealed that the US wouldn’t let the plane with the cash take off until prisoners were released.  Dancing with the truth?

The Syrian boy’s picture has colored my whole day.  I have thought about what can I do to stop this debacle the world has created, so complicated, so odorous, so lacking in humanity, so not a moment of “our better angels.”

When I wake up in the morning, I do my best to have a moment of gratitude.  I am not living in Aleppo.  Today that came home so much because of the photo of the five-year-old.  It is a picture that has come to represent the Syrian crisis as much as the photo of the three-year-old dead child washed up on the coast of Greece did to galvanize the world about the refugee crisis, much of it a result of the Syrian war.

Closer to home, the Blue Cut Fire in California has consumed 31,000 acres and it still rages.

In Louisiana floods have consumed 40,000 homes and at least thirteen lives.  A preacher man who “testified” that natural disasters were God’s way of punishing us for same sex marriage was forced to flee his home in a canoe.

I have been so lucky to have been born when and where I was.  Our world is changing.  It is becoming global and integrated and reactionary and frightened and fundamentalism is having a heyday. But we still care…

The answers aren’t in front of me right now.  But seeing that little boy in Aleppo makes me realize I must do better. That we all have to do better.

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