The decision announced by Pres. Obama last Wednesday to unleash the dogs of war is very disturbing. American servicemen and women are to return to Iraq, to those sands that have already soaked up rivers of American blood.
I was writing about my fears and misgivings, but kept being interrupted. This morning the news that another Westerner has been beheaded forced me to recalibrate. My own head began to spin.
The lake in Central Park
I decided to grant myself a reprieve and walked to Central Park. It was another warm and beautiful day, like so many in this unusual summer. Once I passed through the gates and into the green oasis, the sounds of the city faded away and my thoughts of war and death began to dissipate.
On a mild and sunny Sunday, there were strollers like me, also bikers, skaters, rollerbladers, runners, boaters, people riding pedicabs and others making music. There were lovers and tourists, babies and grandparents. I watched a mother teach her daughter to skip. A couple visiting from Indiana asked me to take their picture. In the manner of people who live in a small town, passersby smiled and greeted at each other. Continue reading
The ghostly columns are officially called the Tribute in Light. I can see them now from my window. They rise four miles into the sky and are visible 60 miles away. They go up at sunset on Sept. 11 and gradually disappear when dawn brings another day.
The first few years after 2001 I used to watch the memorial service at Ground Zero. Though I had a tenuous connection to two of the victims, I knew none of them personally. Still, my tears welled up as fathers and sisters, uncles and daughters and friends read the names of their loved ones who were vaporized in the 9/11 holocaust. In more recent years (since an old high-school friend discovered me on Facebook), I read the poem he wrote on the first anniversary of the attacks. The image of rose petals fluttering from the heights to the ground is especially poignant.
Two years ago I wrote my impressions of the National September 11 Memorial. I had been invited to a tour guided by the architect who won the competition for its design. The seemingly impossible challenge that Michael Arad set himself was to represent absence, the emptiness left in the spirit and on the ground after the incineration of the people and the towers. How do you render what isn’t there? How do you depict nothingness? Arad’s solution is moving and brilliant. Continue reading
Two beams of light represent the former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center during the 2004 memorial of the September 11 2001 attacks.
On this day each year I am overcome by nostalgia and memory. Thirteen years ago I was celebrating a milestone anniversary with friends. We were sailing in the Aegean Sea, living a dream I’d had since studying ancient Greece in the ninth grade.
On September 10 we were in Mykonos. We had a wonderful dinner, dancing — even on the tables — and laughing. The next day we went to a convenience store for some small thing and the TV was on. I was waiting outside when my husband rushed out and told me about the first plane. I was incredulous. I almost didn’t believe him. The store owner tuned to CNN in English for us. We were watching as the second plane hit. Then we knew it was no accident — an act of war, I said at the time.
In the evening we decided to go back to the same place for dinner. A difference of night and day. As we walked in, the owners offered their condolences. There was no music and the mood was somber. We ate quietly and the entire restaurant observed a few minutes of silence. Some of us had children who worked near the WTC, so the next few days we were all wracked with anxiety until we knew they were all right.
Time heals, but the scar remains.
Pres. Obama addresses nation with a plan to fight ISIS
The President is in a bind: damned if he reacts militarily to ISIS and damned if he doesn’t, and by the same people who oppose whatever he proposes, simply because he proposes it. ISIS is clearly a threat, but it is a problem without a visible solution. As in Vietnam and Iraq, the danger of escalation is very real.
Obama set forth a limited form of action, one that depends on the locals with vested interests to put their boots on the ground so that we don’t have to put ours there. Maybe. What’s the endpoint, what’s the goal? Will we be satisfied with containing ISIS (and how long will that take?) or must it be eradicated?
Are we setting a precedent? Are we being baited into joining another war of attrition? Those weapons that we will provide when we train Iraqi soldiers— again— in whose hands will they end up? Will they eventually be trained on Americans as happened in Afghanistan and is happening in Syria? Continue reading
Food stall in Bangkok
What will you and your descendants eat in 2050? Will you enjoy a t-bone steak, a slice of swordfish, a chicken drumstick?
Not because you wouldn’t like to, but because that kind of food — animal flesh — will have become very rare. The developing world is clamoring for meat, but it doesn’t have the resources to enrich its diet with a fraction of the meat now consumed by the developed world. (You don’t have to go to Africa to see hunger. Fifteen percent of American households don’t have enough to eat.)
Even now, the earth doesn’t have enough freshwater or arable land to grow the crops necessary to feed its entire population of seven billion adequately. The additional two billion people projected by mid-century will remove more land from cultivation for housing and require a great deal more water.
The oceans, expansive as they are, won’t yield the same food they do currently. Overfishing is pushing large fish like swordfish and tuna to the edge of extinction. Climate change and the increasing acidification of the oceans is resulting in changed habitats on land and in the sea that are no longer hospitable to the same species. Fish, land animals, birds and plants are responding to the changes in temperature on land and in the sea by migrating away from the equator and towards the poles in both hemispheres. They will not find the conditions that allowed them to thrive in their native habitats.
What then will humans eat? Where will we find a source of protein? The answer has a large yuck factor:
Actions have consequences and words have meaning, but it is easier to see consequences than to decipher meaning. Practically everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, jumped on the president for admitting that “we have no strategy yet” for countering ISIS. Admittedly, it would have been better PR for Obama to have phrased a positive answer rather than a negative one.
The president was attacked for candidly answering the question put to him about what sort of congressional authorization would be required. That would be putting the cart before the horse, he said, for a plan that hasn’t been finalized.
And suppose there actually is a strategy — how smart would it be to divulge it to our enemies? After a decade of war, a war that Americans wanted desperately to end, how would a hawkish strategy for a new invasion be received? Why isn’t the press relieved that the president is considering his options and their probable consequences rather than diving recklessly into a new war with a far more dangerous adversary than Saddam Hussein was?