Archive for the ‘Brussels terror attack’ Category

Letter From New York 05 15 2016 Isn’t interesting…

May 16, 2016

This is one of the most enjoyable moments I have in a week, sitting at the dining room table, jazz playing in the background, the sun setting, looking across the deck to the wild woods across the creek, pulling together my thoughts as the sun slowly sets.

This morning I re-read my last online post [www.mathewtombers.com].  In the last part I wrote about Islam and the West having to come to terms with each other and as I read it I thought: whoa, Islam must come to peace with itself.  IS is mostly killing other Muslims.  Those numbers dwarf the numbers they have killed in Paris and Brussels and New York and London.  They die by the hundreds and thousands in Iraq and Syria alone.  Not to mention Yemen, which seems to be to Sunni and Shia what Spain was to Fascists and Republicans in the 1930’s.

We note with great care and deep exegesis the murders in the West and the daily drumbeat of death in Baghdad, Aleppo and Yemen is a footnote.  Muslims are mostly slaughtering other Muslims.

Not unlike the way Christians slaughtered other Christians in the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries.  We had the Thirty Year War, which started as a religious war and became so much more.  The Muslims seem to be having their Thirty Year War and it is much scarier because technology is so much more advanced.

And while they fight amongst themselves, some of them  rage against the West, those who are Fundamentalist Muslims.  They see us as abominations.

One late night here at the cottage I wondered if I was living a bit like a Roman in the 2nd or 3rd Century CE, knowing the darkness was coming and unable to prevent it so enjoying the present as much as possible. 

That’s a bit melodramatic I suppose.  Events are still playing out.  Outcomes can be changed. 

The forces at work in our lives are terrifying.  We have a saber rattling Putin, who denies everything negative, and a major religion that is going through an existential crisis, manyßåå of them thinking nothing of killing as a policy. 

In college, I took an Honors course on Medieval Islamic Civilization and they were civilized.  Something has gone very wrong there and, hopefully, for all of us, they will sort it out.

In the meantime, the rest of the world keeps moving.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Not being mentally healthy is a debilitating stigma many carry.  As someone who has been in therapy since he was sixteen, I empathize.  It is not, in many places, åstill, now, acceptable to talk about.

And it saved my life. And in the years between then and now, many members of my family have taken me aside to thank me for having broken the dam.  I was the first and I was pretty loud about it too.  Everyone knew. Everyone rolled their eyes at me, then they began quietly to look for their own therapists.

We are still dealing with racial issues and we are still dealing with mental stigmas. So good there is a Mental Health Awareness Month.  We need all the mental health we can get.

Our politics continue to look like a sideshow. Friends who live in Japan, Australia, Europe ask me what is going on?  I don’t know.  Does anyone?  There has been nothing like this in my lifetime and it is a bit scary.

I have been reading articles about the raucous Nevada Democratic Convention and I haven’t parsed  the events quite but there was a showdown between the Bernie supporters and the Hillary supporters.  Hillary won but her supporters are worried about a similar scene playing out at the national convention.

It has grown dark now.  The sun has set.  While it is mid-May, the temperature is going down to 34 tonight so we are not actually in real Spring yet. I had to turn up the heat tonight.  I might yet light a fire.

The jazz lures me to a quiet place of introspection.

Letter From New York 04 09 2016 As it happens…

April 10, 2016

It is one of my favorite times at the cottage; the sun is setting and twilight is arriving.  As I look out the front window, seated on my sofa, the view slowly becomes very like a black and white photo.  There are only woods, slipping away into the night, a few branches slowly blowing in the soft wind of a cool spring evening.

Touring Amazon Prime Music, I added a playlist of “Classical for Reading” while I sip a martini and type, laptop balanced on my lap.  It had been my intention to go out and attend a gallery opening down in Hudson but after Nick and his father, Martin, left after completing a few finishing touches to my newly painted bath, I sat on the couch, read for a while and decided that, no, I wasn’t headed out; I was staying home to enjoy my cottage.

Last night, I did the same.  Watched “Grantchester” on line and then drifted off, reading a book on my Kindle.

As I sat, as I normally do, having lunch at the bar at The Red Dot, reading and bantering with Alana, the owner, the individuals around me were chattering about the New York Primary, scheduled for the week after next.  Bernie will be in Albany on Monday and one woman is calling in sick in hopes of getting into the rally.  The once solid upstate affection for Hillary has seemed to cool this year and it’s Bernie that is capturing the attention.

Hillary is playing well downstate and I think is headed upstate soon.  It’s a big contest for the two of them, particularly now that he has won Wyoming.  “Pivotal” is the word newspeople are using to describe what happens in New York on the Democratic side.

Hillary herself says she needs to win big, according to the Washington Post.

Ted Cruz had a relatively warm reception in upstate New York when he spoke at a Christian school here but did not fare as well downstate, which finds his “New York values” statement more than a little offensive.  He was, I do believe, booed in Brooklyn.

Donald is trumping through the state, playing on Cruz’s statement and is leading on the GOP side here in New York. 

Arianna Huffington has become a great promoter of sleep.  Yes, that’s right, sleep!  She said in a radio interview that The Donald is exhibiting signs of sleep deprivation.  It’s a point of honor with him that he only sleeps four hours a night.

Meanwhile, Turkey, a country I visited some years ago and was one of my favorite places, is facing warnings from the US and Israel about tourists going there; credible reports of potential incidents in Istanbul and elsewhere have caused the warnings.  A bomb in a bag was exploded today in Istanbul by police, two slightly wounded when they did so.

In Brussels, “the man in the hat” was arrested. He has been ardently searched for by authorities for weeks and was apprehended.  Mohamed Abrini admits to being there, being “the man in the hat” and while he has been apprehended the threat remains all over Europe.

It was a very good day for three sailors in Micronesia, who had been reported missing.  They spelled the world “Help” in palm fronds and that was spotted by a rescue helicopter and they were picked up from the uninhabited island.

Tomorrow night there will be a documentary on HBO about the legendary Gloria Vanderbilt, done with her son, Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor.  She reveals in the new memoir accompanying the documentary that she seduced both Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, not to mention Errol Flynn and Howard Hughes.  What a life she has led…

She is 92, by the way, and doing quite well, thank you!  The book is called, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes.”

And now, outside, it is dark, the music plays and I will end and cozy up with a book.

Letter From New York 03 24 2016 From where we were to where we are…

March 25, 2016

Darkness has descended on the Hudson Valley; it is pitch black outside though I am heartened everyday by the weather person’s announcement we had three or so more minutes of daylight today than yesterday.

I’ve adjusted the timers on lights to accommodate the increasing daylight.  I rejoice as I am sure everyone does.

My dining room table is scattered with recipes from which I will choose the ones being made for Easter.  I am getting it organized.   I bought upgraded plastic silverware for Sunday.  Since I am doing this, I want it to be a little special — or a lot special.

In the morning I will winnow down the recipes and head out to do my shopping.  My friend Robert has given me eight dozen eggs from the chickens who live at his house down in Rhinebeck.  I had some for lunch.  There is nothing like farm fresh eggs!

While I am typing this, Christ Church is celebrating Maundy Thursday and I wasn’t feeling very churchy tonight so I didn’t go.

Probably feeling more churchy than I do, or at least one would hope so, is Radovan Karadzic, the former Serb leader who was convicted today of genocide during the horrific Serbian conflict twenty-one years ago.  Eight thousand Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in a town called Srebrenica.  Justice finally has been done though it will not bring back those men and boys whose only crime was that they were born Muslim.

At the time, when it was revealed, I felt horror and I feel it today.  There was a time when such things happened to Christians; indeed, they are happening today to Christians at the hands of IS.  It is things like Srebrenica that make IS feel justified.

It’s been a happy day for me, feeling far from all the world’s troubles, tooling around Columbia County, collecting mail, a couple of meetings with organizations I am volunteering with, a haircut, bumping into people on the street and having a good conversation with them.

While I was doing those fun things, the police in Paris foiled an alleged terror attack in advanced stages.  Obama apologized in Argentina for some of our policies and actions during their long and very dirty internal war.  I suspect we turned too blind an eye to some things.

Belgium and Europe in general are struggling to balance freedom and safety in the fight against terrorist attacks.

In America, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are exploiting our fears in their campaigns; loudly criticized and, I think, rightly so, by Obama.  And I think by Hillary and Bernie, too.

Syrian troops loyal to Assad are in the suburbs of Palmyra in the early stages of reclaiming the city from IS, which has this year lost 21% of the territory it controlled.  The monuments destroyed are gone and it will be good if the city can be liberated.  It has suffered terribly.

At the same time, Iraqi troops are advancing into Mosul, using lessons from the recapture of Ramadi to help them win back this important Iraqi city.  Many of the historical treasures there are gone also, never to be seen again.

I do not live in their mindset and cannot come close to comprehending why it was necessary for them to destroy the heritage of the planet.  But they did.  It ranks up there with the killings at Srebrenica.  Maybe it doesn’t.  At Srebrenica those were living beings that were destroyed.  At Palmyra and Mosul, it was the artifacts of the past that helped create the world in which we now live.

There are echoes of that world here in the cottage.  I have treasured artifacts from the past and things that echo them.  Someday, when I am gone, all this will be scattered, some thrown away but in the time they have had with me I have been grateful for their presence.

There is a small collection of masks, a recreation of a bust of Athena from Greece, a painting from India that evokes Alexander, a Renoir re-strike, a wonderful painting from a Provincetown gallery of Alexander. 

We need the past to build the future, to connect ourselves from where we were to where we are going.

Letter From New York 03 22 2016 A dirge for Brussels

March 23, 2016

The sun is setting as I sit looking out at the creek, the vista in front of me full of greying light and the still barren branches of the trees clawing to the sky. 

Mahler plays in the background.  He seemed right for the moment, a day in which I have been enraged and sad, felt broken and hopeless, contemplative and escapist.

When the alarms went off this morning, the screen of my phone was cluttered with news pushes from the BBC and AP about the tragedy in Brussels.  I rubbed my eyes and attempted to focus, not wanting to believe what I was reading.  But it was there, a truth that had entered the world, unwanted but present, never to be put back in any bottle.

I hit the snooze alarm and closed my eyes, staying there until I had to break into the day.  Playing commuter, I made a round trip to the city today for a meeting I felt I could not miss.  If I missed my train, I might miss the meeting.

It seemed inconsequential when I really thought about it, a media meeting balanced against the carnage of Brussels, another IS attack on western civilization.  However, our worlds go on and we met and it was good and some business might develop from it and we never talked about Brussels.

We are becoming inured to the cadence of troubles that has burst upon the world.  We are accepting all of this as the new normal, much as did the Russians did during the last fifty years of the Empire when anarchists struck again and again.  You have to go on because what else does one do? 

Perhaps we should take a break, think about what is happening, see what individually we might do to change the horrible road we’re on.

We don’t really know how to change the map, the road; we do our best, or our worst, and keep on going.  We are, at this moment, caught up in the flow of history and we poor individuals don’t know how to do much to change it yet it is somehow, in democracies, in our hands.

Ted Cruz has apparently called for the patrolling and monitoring of American Muslim communities.  I wanted to take my phone and throw it across the drive when I read that. 

How do we make them our friends when we cast them all as enemies? 

It is frightening and complex and every Muslim I know is as appalled by IS as I am.  Monitor and patrol their communities?  He is taking a page from the Trump playbook.

As I drove to the train this morning a commentator on “Democracy Now” which I do not often listen to, claimed that if there were a Brussels style attack in America just before the election we will be looking at a President Trump.

And I was afraid he might be right.

On my way out of town tonight, on the 4:40 heading north, I might have been imaging it but it seemed there were a lot more soldiers in Penn Station than there normally are.  And I understood it.

Facebook notified me that Facebook friends of mine in Brussels were all safe, for which I was grateful.

I am frightened tonight.  I am going into the city again tomorrow and that doesn’t frighten me.  But the world in which we are living frightens me. 

“The War on Terror” may not be the best option in dealing with this situation which is rapidly, I think, growing out of control.

We have failed to address systemic issues in the Mideast and are reaping the rewards.  Just saying…

I am in the third act of my life.  It is for my younger friends and relatives I am concerned.

It is for the world I was born into that I am concerned.  It is slipping away from us.  IS is taking our peace and our consumption habits seem about to take much else from us. 

Scientists are saying global warming is worse than they thought.

No wonder I am playing Mahler tonight.