Posts Tagged ‘Lars Vik’

Letter From New York 02 16 15 A call to be better…

February 17, 2015

As the sun is setting, I am traveling on a train south to New York. After two days of brutal cold, the temperature is edging up into what feels reasonable, 24 degrees. The same brutal cold that forced me to leave the cold-water tap running for two days in my kitchen, has also hobbled train service along the Empire corridor, from New York City to Albany.

Trains were frozen this morning in Sunnyside yards and couldn’t make it into Penn Station for their appointed runs. Trains going south earlier today were delayed. Mine was on time but it is oversold and unhappy people are standing in the aisles. The conductor has suggested they call 1-800-USA-RAIL to vent their complaints rather than inflicting them upon her.

Battered Boston is in for more snow and cold; already they have had nearly double the normal amount of snowfall.

Europe is complaining about the intransigence of Greece in refusing to stick to the terms of the bailout. The Greeks are demanding new terms and Europe, so far, is unbending. Neither side has blinked. Markets have rallied but are edgy about what is happening.

In Italy, Michele Ferrero, he of the family who gave us Nutella, and Italy’s wealthiest man, has passed away. I will never again have a Nutella crepe without thinking of him.

Also, in Italy, there is talk of the Italians leading a coalition to oppose ISIS. In the video that shows the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya, the spokesman for ISIS points across the sea, threatening to take Rome. The place where the beheadings took place is 520 miles from Italy.

Boatloads of refugees have been crossing the Mediterranean for months now, looking for a better life in Europe. What is to stop boatloads of terrorists? The UN Security Council is to take up the question of ISIS in Libya soon.

It is now a bit awkward to call them ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] since they now claim to have a province in Libya and have demonstrated better coordination between regions than the West believed was possible.

The Egyptians, who’s Coptic Christians were slaughtered, has launched a second set of air strikes against the Islamic State in Libya. It is not waiting for the United Nations. They are taking things into their own hands for now. And they are taking steps to evacuate other Coptic Christians through Tunisia.

IS has managed to do something which has been difficult to do until now and that is to get Muslim nations to join in a chorus of horror at their actions. The burning of the Jordanian pilot and now the beheading of the Coptic Christians has solidified the anger of some Muslims against IS.

Egypt, which is rising to the defense of its Coptic Christians, has often exhibited its own oppression of them by tolerating discrimination against them.

In France, five teenagers have been arrested, suspected of defiling 300 Jewish graves. It caused a wave of fear in France and resulted in President Hollande encouraging French Jews to remain in France. One of the boys turned himself in when he saw the enormous reaction to his deeds. He claimed he had no anti-Semitic intentions.

France is very concerned; anti-Semitic acts more than doubled last year from the year before, as they are rising all over Europe.

In Denmark, thousands marched today following the deaths of two there. One man was an accomplished documentarian who was attending a seminar that was also attended by the cartoonist, Lars Vik, who has been under police protection since 2007 when his cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed was published and assumed to have been the target. The other was a young Jewish man acting as security at Copenhagen’s main synagogue during a Bat Mitzvah.

In Europe, both anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia rise. I have struggled how to end today’s post. Could I find a way to loop back to some pleasant event in my life? But I can’t; I am caught thinking of the Coptic Christians who died because they were Christian and of the young Jewish man in Copenhagen who died because he was Jewish. I think of the Shia who are killed by the Sunnis and the Sunnis who are killed by the Shia.

It would be trite to say there are no easy answers. What all this does, it seems to me, is to call us all to be better, in our lives and in our support of the oppressed, in facing the complex issues that are the background of our lives.

Letter From New York 02 15 15 During the blistering cold…

February 15, 2015

Outside the sun is shining down brilliantly; a bright white light is cast down on the mounds of snow outside my windows. It looks warm and inviting. It is not. The temperature is minus nine, wind chill factor, and will continue to go lower as the day progresses. It is the most brutally cold winter I remember since I have been here and I have commented to many a friend: it’s Minnesota cold.

At times, I have wanted to depart and head to the tropics until it breaks. I dress in layers and my feet are always cold, despite wool socks and boots. But that is the way of this winter. Cold and coldly beautiful, it seems to be one for the record books.

This morning, I rose and went down to Christ Church in Hudson with some friends and then moved on to the Red Dot for brunch. When I left the church, my car was momentarily obscured by the blowing snow. It is that kind of day. While I was out, the driveway was plowed and the walk shoveled, for which I am grateful. Tomorrow I will head down to New York City so I can be in place for an early meeting on Tuesday.

While I organize my week, Denmark is struggling to recover from a young man, freshly out of prison, who killed two and wounded five. It was a bit of a copycat event, modeled after the Charlie Hebdo incident in Paris. The supposed target in the first killing was a cartoonist, Lars Vik, who had satirized the Prophet Mohammed back in 2007 and has been under police protection ever since. The second victim was a young Jewish man who was acting as a volunteer security person at a Danish synagogue for a Bat Mitzvah.

In another act of brutality, the Libyan cohorts of ISIS have released a video purportedly showing the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians. They were singled out for their religion.

It sometimes feels like we are returning to the Middle Ages, when all sorts of heinous acts were justified in the name of religion. Certainly, those who claim allegiance to ISIS seem to be parading medieval characteristics of brutal killing for the sake of religion, not unlike the Christian Crusaders who rampaged through land after land in the late 11th Century, slaughtering Jews after they had paid Bishops for their safety. Eastern Orthodox Christians were also not immune from the wrath of the Crusaders. It was not a pretty time for Christianity and it has only been in the last few centuries that we have begun behaving civilly with each other. Perhaps someday the various branches of Islam will learn to live with each other and with us in a civil manner. But it is certainly not today.

In Ukraine the truce called for last night has slowed but not quelled the violence. Around the city of Debaltseve, a vital rail hub, there is still the sound of shelling. Other areas are seeing relief.

In Nigeria, a sixteen-year-old suicide bomber blew herself up at a crowded bus station, killing mostly children who were selling goods at the station. No one has yet claimed responsibility but it has the earmarks of Boko Haram. How does one get a sixteen-year-old girl to blow herself up?

Moving away from the violence wracking our world, there are rumors that Apple is considering building an electric car. I find this interesting – and not entirely improbable.

While I think I have it difficult with my blistering cold, I am not as unlucky as Boston, which has been hit with more snow and with brutal cold.

As I write this, the sun is beginning to set. Tonight on NBC there will be a 40th Anniversary Celebration of Saturday Night Live. A group of us are gathering to watch the event. It will be quite an event, probably a little raw and ragged at the edges, as the weekly show often is, and also probably full of magic moments, as the show regularly is.

Letter From New York 02 14 15 Privileged to know…

February 15, 2015

Outside my window, as I write, soft snowflakes are falling. The roads are treacherous and I am just home from an afternoon at friends. Five of us who ride the train regularly got together and shared wine and nibbles. It was a lovely few hours. It was our Valentine’s Day get together.

Tonight I was invited to join some friends for a Valentine’s dinner but begged off. I am single and it is sometimes not easy being the fifth wheel, particularly on Valentine’s Day. I am glad I stayed home, enjoying the soft quiet that is my cottage.

While it is quiet here in Claverack, it is not quiet out in the world.

In Copenhagen, one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, there was an assault on a conversation about blasphemy that was attended by the French Ambassador and Lars Vik, a cartoonist who has been the target of attacks since he did a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed as a dog back in 2007. One is dead, three policemen are injured and the gunman is still on the run.

Here in the Northeast, we are bunkering down for more snow and brutal cold. Poor battered Boston is expecting another foot and we’re expecting another seven inches. On top of that, the cold is going to be brutal. Temperatures are expected as low as minus twenty-five wind chill factor, a temperature I don’t recall living through since I left Minnesota.

As I am writing, it is now past midnight in Ukraine when the truce is supposed to go into effect. I am praying that it does. The last hours leading to this moment have been a free for all on both sides, juggling for supremacy. This is the one of the greatest challenges the world has faced since Chamberlin gave away parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. The West wants peace at any price and Putin wants his way at any price. It is a deeply disturbing moment in a deeply disturbing time, when we are assaulted on all fronts.

In Canada, that most peaceful and placid of countries, a plot was uncovered and foiled. Four people intended to shoot masses of people in Halifax. Apparently they had no ideological reason for doing this. They just wanted people dead.

Speaking of people wanting other people dead, ISIS launched some suicide bombers on a base in Iraq with a number of American soldiers. They didn’t succeed, either killed by the Americans or by detonating their vests prematurely. But in Iraq, the carnage continues. I am slowly beginning to understand the Shia/Sunni nuances and it seems as much as they want to kill us, they want to kill each other more. I don’t think this was on the agenda of the Prophet.

In Houston, a mosque was set on fire this morning. It doesn’t appear to be an accident.

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, is apparently in a secret correspondence with Obama as the two countries work on an agreement about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It has to do with the Sunni/Shia divide. Iran is Shia. ISIS is Sunni. Never, it seems, shall the twain meet. If a deal is made between Iran and the West about the nuclear issue, perhaps we work together on the ISIS issue. Ah, the Sunni issue.

In religious issues, Pope Francis, has named twenty new Cardinals, many of them from developing countries. Most are under eighty, which means they will have the voice at the next conclave, which will choose a successor to Francis.

And in the world of media, we’ve lost Bob Simon and David Carr and Stan Chambers. The last person is probably not as well know as the first two but he reported on air for KTLA in Los Angeles until he was eighty-seven. He pioneered the first live coverage of a news event. He was a gracious good man that I met once. May he rest in peace.

And the world has also lost Gary Owens. Most famous for his part in Laugh-In, he was also a world-class voice over artist. I worked with him at KMPC in Los Angeles and on several radio benefits for the US Committee for UNICEF. He was a lovely, generous man. I was privileged to know him.