Archive for the ‘Paris Attacks’ Category

Letter From Claverack 04 21 2017 The past fights the future…

April 21, 2017

Apple blossoms dressed the trees in the orchards as I drove along 9H earlier today, the first, best sign of spring I’ve seen though, once having noticed them, I was aware that small buds of green were appearing on other trees.  The ones outside my windows don’t seem to be sporting them and I’m sure they will come eventually, which is how this spring has seemed – eventually we will get there – just not yet.

It has been a quiet sort of day.  Earlier I spent some time at OMI, an art center near me that I have known about but had not visited and that was my loss.  The two-hundred-acre campus is dotted with sculptures, the main building with art exhibits.  Today quite beautiful children were painting, running around in young life’s exuberance, bringing smiles to all the adults.  I offered up a thought for good lives for them; the future does feel cloudy right now.

It’s not just that this is a gray day.  Generally, I am an upbeat sort of person [or at least I think of myself as that] and today I’ve not been.  The state of the world has been weighing on me, both close to home and far from here.

Close to home, I am burdened because a friend sent me suicidal texts and I was incredibly concerned and finally asked the police to do a “welfare check.”  They did.  He then texted me he wanted nothing more to do with me.  Truthfully, I did the right thing and, at this moment, it hasn’t turned out well. For me and, I expect, not for him as he is in deep trouble and won’t admit it.

Candles to be lit; prayers to be said and to continue, as best we can.

Paris is continuing as best it can after a policeman was shot yesterday and two badly wounded by a terrorist who was killed as he was fleeing.  IS claims responsibility and France is having elections on Sunday.  The far-right candidate, Marie Le Pen, is threatening to remove France from the EU so that it can control its own borders.

She has a chance of winning.

The far right is making its might felt all over the place.

And that is so worrying to me.

For a brief, shining moment in my life it seemed we might actually be headed toward a global society and it has not happened.  It was around the time the Berlin Wall went down, a moment I will forever remember.  Driving down Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, headed west, my bestest friend, Tory Abel, called me on my car phone and said: do you know what’s going on?  As I was listening to classical music, I didn’t.  The wall was falling.

There are all kinds of suppositions about why that magic moment did not result in a better world.

Right now, I am reading a book about “the weekend” in British homes in the 1930’s and one of the revelatory bits was about a British Lord who became a Muslim because he saw Islam as the bulwark against women getting the vote and having shorter skirts and working.

He would probably have a lot in common with IS.

Change is hard.  And changing centuries of tradition is hard and people will fight it.  IS is fighting it.

When all of this works itself out, I won’t be here.  It will take more than a lifetime.

And that is history in the making.  It takes lifetimes to work itself out.

If you are not aware of it, Chechnya is conducting a campaign against gays.  It is putting us in camps, not unlike the Nazis; there are tales of torture and death.  Can this be happening in the 21st Century?  Apparently so.  The reports are horrific.

The President of Chechnya has declared he will eliminate the gay community by the beginning of Ramadan on May 26th.

Putin has declared there is no evidence this is happening and that is Putin’s view of the world: no horrible thing is happening.  There is no sarin gas is Syria, there is no campaign against gays in Chechnya, there is no fill in the blank.

 

 

 

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 01 07 16 Thoughts on a hard day…

January 8, 2016

Stock market rout   Jamison Teale   Christ Church  Hudson  Roy Moore   Alabama Gay Controversy  Tiffany Martin Hamilton  Tommy Ragland  Charlie Hebdo Anniversary  Oklahoma earthquakes  Netflix  Bill Clinton  Hillary Clinton  John Kerry  Syrian Peace Process  Iran  Saudi Arabia  California storms  Ted Cruz  Burns, Oregon

Well, I was smart enough today to not look at the market as it was another BAD day as China’s market shudders riled every other market in the world.  While they were plunging, I had a pleasant day. 

Answered emails, ran errands and wrote out the first draft of my syllabus for my class that starts on the 20th.  It was actually kind of fun, if headache inducing.

Now it is evening and I have turned on the lights outside, classic jazz is playing and I think I will light a fire as it is going to be chill again tonight.

My Christmas tree is still up and I am not taking it down until Sunday.  Having been gone for two weeks, I feel I deserve a little more time with it.  It is a white artificial tree and I think this is its last year.  But it has been a beautiful, for me, tree.

Jamison Teale, the Senior Warden at Christ Church [where I attend services] and his longtime companion, James, were married on New Year’s Day by Hudson’s first woman mayor in her first official function.  They are coming for dinner on Saturday with the church’s Musical Director, Tom Martin, father to Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton of Hudson.

One of my errands today was to find them a small wedding present.

While James and Jamison married easily here in New York, the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, Roy Moore, has ordered that state’s probate judges not  issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Federal authorities immediately ordered them to do so.  Some have thrown up their arms and aren’t giving marriage licenses to anyone.

Ah, Justice Moore, this has been decided.  No back pedaling allowed I think.

One probate judge, Tommy Ragland, summed it up best, saying, “We have a Chief Justice who is confused.”

One of the other errands I did today was to look for a clock radio to replace my ancient one that no longer works.  You know, they are rather hard to find.  Not nonexistent but hard to find.  I am going online to see what I can find there.

My toaster also broke and I looked at those too and thought they all looked shoddy.  More investigation needed.

It is the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  Let there be a moment of silence.

The French police killed a man brandishing a meat cleaver today, who was screaming “Allahu Akbar [God is Greatest].”  He was wearing a fake suicide vest.  That confuses me.  Why bother?

Oklahoma had a swarm of 70 earthquakes yesterday.  In 2013 they had a couple of hundred.  In 2014 they had over 5,000.  That is an exponential increase.  2015 statistics are currently being gathered.  There is a suspect:  fracking.

Earlier this week Netflix was available in 60 countries.  Today it is in 190 countries.  130 countries “turned on” Netflix while its President and CEO was giving a speech at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

I’ve attended a couple and they are always mind boggling.  This year is not quite so much according to pundits but still generating lots of wow.

Politics continues.  Bill Clinton is stumping for Hillary in Iowa.  Lots of people I know would like him back but since he can’t….

Cruz is cruising in Iowa which frightens the bejesus out of me. 

California is pummeled by storms and that worries me about friends there though I hope it is helping the drought.

In Burns, Oregon the unlawful occupation of a wildlife center continues.  On social media people have been asking what would be happening if the occupiers were black or Muslim instead of gun totting white guys who are outraged over Federal land policy?

There are no easy answers to anything.  Kerry says that the Saudi Arabia/Iran feud will not slow down the Syrian peace process but how can it not?  I mean, how can it not?

I am taking solace in the cottage and in my hope that our better angels will prevail.

Letter From New York 11 24 15 That attitude of gratitude…

November 24, 2015

Howard Bloom.  New York City. Thanksgiving.  Metrojet. Claverack.  Howard Bloom Saves The Universe. Anne Frank. Jason Rezaian. Nancy Wiard.  Penn Station.  Chad Dougatz. Metrojet.

It is mid-afternoon and I am beginning this as I am closing in on New York City, on the train.  I’m down this afternoon for Howard Bloom’s Podcast [Howard Bloom Saves the Universe, look it up on iTunes or howardbloom.libsyn.com/.

I have a breakfast in the morning and then I am scurrying back north for the long weekend.  Trains were getting hard to get yesterday – every other one seems to be sold out.

Depending on when I get finished with breakfast, I may take an earlier train.  I’m eager to be back at the cottage, priming for Thanksgiving.  I have a few side dishes to make for the feast I am attending.

It’s cold today and it is going down to a mere 14 degrees tonight in Claverack.  Yikes!  I am wearing my winter jacket and have pulled out my favorite scarf.

But my hardships are minimal.  I could be a refugee somewhere in Europe as the cold settles in on the Continent while, at the same time, finding themselves feared by the countries to which they have been fleeing.

Earlier today, in a Facebook posting, I saw that Anne Frank had applied to come to America but was denied.  We weren’t very open to Jews before the war.  If that visa had been granted we may have been denied her diary but she’d be 77 if she had lived.

That fact saddened me.

People are wrestling with what to do about refugees.  Some of most liberal friends are now feeling fearful of accepting them.  I have been seeing the postings on Facebook.  There is great support for and there is great fear of refugees, both views understandable in the light of current events.

Jason Rezaian, a journalist for the Washington Post and who headed their Tehran bureau is headed for prison for an unspecified period of time.  Holding both Iranian and US citizenship, he seemed a natural for the posting.  The Iranians have convicted him of espionage.

He has languished in prison since July 2014.

Now, I am sitting just outside the studio while Howard is doing his podcast, discussing with Chad Dougatz, the host, the roots of Islamic terrorism. 

Terrorism, the bane of our time…  Just moments ago, my phone buzzed with a notice that the US has issued a global travel alert due to increased threats of terrorism.

My friend, Nancy Wiard, is traveling to the European Christmas markets.  She sent me a message today from Amsterdam, which is close to Belgium whose major city, Brussels, home for the European Union, is under lockdown. 

Multiple operations are underway in Brussels as I type.

It is believed that the bomb that took down the Russian Metrojet was placed under the seat of a fifteen year old girl, seat 31A.

I didn’t get to finish last night.  Today is a beautiful, slightly chill, afternoon on the train heading north.  I’m seated on the river side of the car and I’m watching the Hudson slide by as I move north.

As I headed toward the train this morning, Penn, not unexpectedly was overflowing with people heading out for Thanksgiving.  It, too, had more than its usual contingent of police and soldiers.  In the fourteen plus years since 9/11, I have yet to accept their presence as the new normal.

But, it is, and during Thanksgiving the city is on a higher alert level.  More police, more soldiers, more…

Yes, the world is a grim place.  The Turks have shot down a Russian warplane which kept, according to them, violating its airspace.  Let’s just ratchet up the tensions, why don’t we…

However, I also read an article in the NY Times this morning about the positive health affects of being grateful, so I am attempting to settle myself into my “attitude of gratitude” mode.  It will be a healthier place for me.

It is two days from Thanksgiving and tomorrow I will be prepping my contributions to our annual feast of gratitude and I will do my best to remember all the many things for which I am grateful.

Letter From New York 11 20 15 Another day, another atrocity…

November 20, 2015

Claverack. “A Trick of the Light” Louise Penny. Three Pines. Linda Epperson. Mali. Radisson Blu in Mali. Agatha Christie.  “Murder at Hazelmoor” Paris.  Ca’Mea. Hudson, New York.

Today was a startlingly beautiful day; a perfect early fall day, the sun shining brightly with the temperature scraping near 60 degrees.  The best part is that it is now late November! 

I woke early and watched the sun glitter on the creek while sipping my morning coffee and reading the NY Times on my iPhone.

It has been a good day.  I finished reading “A Trick of the Light,” a Louise Penny murder mystery set in the fictional town of Three Pines in southern Quebec.  There are twelve or thirteen of them.  My friend, Linda Epperson, told me about them some years ago and I have been working my way through them.

When I was in, I think, 3rd grade and was home sick, restless of course, my mother tossed an Agatha Christie at me.  It was “Murder at Hazelmoor.”  It converted me to being a mystery fan and a bit of an Anglophile.  Thanks to my friend Dalton Delan, I am the proud owner of an original edition of the book.

Three Pines is a little village filled with eccentric characters and a disproportionate amount of murders per capita.  What it does remind me of, a bit, is my little town of Claverack without the disproportionate number of murders.

A few years ago the son of the man who owns the house two doors down from me did, apparently, an amazing number of drugs and shot his father and then killed himself.  I was out of town.  The father lived and is still in the house.

But that moment haunts our street, just as all the murders in Three Pines haunt that village.

I am writing on about mysteries because I don’t want to think of the mystery which is the world.

Today’s tragedy was in Mali.  Al Qaeda terrorists burst into the Radisson Blu hotel there and killed, at last count, at least 21, screaming “Allahu akbar” [God is Great, I think] while slitting one man’s throat and rampaging with automatic weapons.

It is over now.  They are counting the dead.  At least one American is gone.  Another day, another tragedy played out.  In Africa, where there have also been all the atrocities from Boko Haram.

Tuesday night, the night before my birthday, my friend Larry took me to dinner at one of our favorite spots, Ca’Mea, great northern Italian cooking.  We talked about Paris; he and his wife, Alicia, had been there not long ago.

He was torn, thinking on one hand he wants to know what is really happening in the world and, on the other hand, not wanting to be overwhelmed by it.

I totally understand.  Sometimes I just want to retreat to my two little acres of land and listen to jazz and watch movies and not think about what is happening out there in the world.

But I can’t.

I care too much.

Letter From New York 11 16 2015 From Paris to Beirut to Minneapolis…

November 16, 2015

Hudson River. Hudson Valley. Paris attacks. French manhunt. IS. Raqqa. Alabama. Michigan. Minneapolis shooting.  Jamar Clark.  Ferguson. Beirut. Lebanese bombings.

It is Monday and the sun glistens off the Hudson River as I ride south, into the city for a meeting today and a lunch tomorrow and then back north to celebrate my birthday on Wednesday.  Another year has passed, this one having moved past me more quickly than any other year.

My mother said often that time moves more quickly the older you get and it appears that she was right, in this instance.

It is a beautiful day in the Hudson Valley, a day so bright and cheerful it feels as if everything was right everywhere in the world.

Of course, it’s not.  The world is still reeling from the Paris attacks.  A manhunt is on throughout France and Belgium looking for a man believed to be one of the attackers who escaped in the chaos following the shootings and suicide bombings. Many have been arrested and taken into custody. 

A Belgian, now believed to be in Syria, is said to be the mastermind. He is 27 years old.

A video was released, purportedly from IS, saying more Paris style attacks would be coming, specifically naming Washington, DC as a target. Its authenticity is questionable and it does not have the high production values usually associated with IS videos. 

In retaliation, French jets, with help from the US, bombed Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of IS. There were at least twenty sorties.

Muslims across Europe are fearful of more backlash because of this and they are, unfortunately, right.  The Governors of Alabama and Michigan have declared their states are closed to Syrian refugees.

At the same time, Obama is ruling out ground forces against IS.  Hollande says he going to speak with both Obama and Putin in the next few days to discuss the situation.

On Thursday, bombs went off in Lebanon, killing 48.  There was no great outcry or notice until Paris.  Now people are noticing and vigils are being held for the Lebanese victims of IS, too.

France has declared itself at war and Hollande is asking for three months of emergency measures.  The US Military has told service members they are not allowed to go to France on leave.

Obama has declared this is a war on civilization.  It is.

I glide south, seagulls swooping over the river in graceful circles.  A tanker inches southward.  We are nearing the city and it becomes more industrial.

Minneapolis is my hometown. There was a shooting there last night.  A young black man was shot and is, according to his family, brain dead.  Witnesses say he was handcuffed and on the ground when he was shot.  The police report a different story.  Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has gathered in protest and is occupying the lobby of the Police Precinct in North Minneapolis where the shooting took place.

North Minneapolis has long had a reputation as a dangerous place.  When I was in my twenties I worked there in an alternative high school.  One of the students warned me against wearing the expensive watch I had as well as the ring I wore.  People were planning to relieve me of them.

People are asking if Minneapolis is having its “Ferguson” moment.  Hard to think of Minneapolis, my hometown, as a “Ferguson” kind of place.

But violence is everywhere and we are becoming so aware of it.