Letter From a Vagabond 20 March 2019 Too much is too much…


It is the evening of March 20thand after twelve hours of traveling, I am in my little hotel in Oaxaca, Mexico, feeling just a shade Hemingway, top of my mind as Nick Stuart and I discussed him at dinner last night.  I am in a colorful town, a white-haired Yank, not knowing quite what is in front of me. And I am writing, my fingers tapping away at my laptop keyboard, hoping you’ll find these words worthy of reading.

Yesterday, I confessed both to my friend David and to Nick, that I had to pull back from consuming so much news and I’m not even watching television and listen little to the radio.  It has been too much.  I have not wanted to write nor read literature, drawn like a moth to the flame of current events. Everything has seemed interesting, fascinating, enthralling, frightening, mystifying and incredible.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash created anxiety; a friend was in Addis Ababa and was soon to leave and Nairobi would have been a natural destination.  He is fine and left Addis the day after, to a different destination and Ethiopian Airlines immediately grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8’s so there was no chance he’d be flying one.  I was relieved when I heard via Facebook he was safe.

Boeing’s public relations response has been eviscerated by the likes of Alan Murray of Forbes Magazine and I think rightly so while the reputation of the firm and the FAA has been damaged by the handling.  EA sent the black boxes from the crash to Paris for examination, a rebuke to the FAA.

Before the US grounded its 737 Max 8 fleet, I checked to make sure I was not flying on one to Mexico.  I have never had anxiety about getting on a specific piece of equipment.  Flying certain airlines in my travels around the world, yes.

The news of the mosque shooting in New Zealand left me stunned.  New Zealand?  They banned a British tourist family from returning for being too rowdy. Okay, so the man is Australian, but I don’t think of Aussies as violent chaps — rowdy maybe, but not violent.

Did the shooter really say, as he started broadcasting on Facebook Live, “Let’s get the party started?” Fifty people, two different mosques.  I found myself transfixed by the grieving face of Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has been rightly getting kudos for the human empathy she demonstrated as she dealt with a grieving, shocked nation.

Some of the victims had moved to New Zealand for safety from Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Not the New Zealand is without prejudice. A severed pig’s head had once been left on the doorstep of the Al Noor Mosque, where most killings occurred.

Staying at the Keene Farm, the views to the Catskills have been tranquil, inspiring. Gratitude still comes to me in the morning.

My friend David spoke of how, despite all this mayhem, we go on living our lives in their mundane wonderfulness.  He is off to ski with his sons in Utah, visits with his mother, goes to his office, eats dinner and does all the micro things we do to keep our lives humming.

David and I brought up the 2011 book, “The Better Angels of our Nature,” by Steven Pinker, which points out statistically, with all this tragedy, we are a kinder, better species than we have been, are generally better off and seem to keep moving that way.  His recent review of trends has not shifted his thinking.

Why then, David asked, do we still feel despair?

Because we are human and can see what can be and what can be is more than what is and wonder why we cannot get further, faster on a road to goodness?

Because we are human, with all those wonderful and awful human traits that we keep honing as we march down the road of history.  And then we have Greta Thunberg of Sweden, all of sixteen, up for a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism on climate change.

Rise up all the Gretas of the world. We need you.





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