April 29, 2002
It is Thursday and as usual on Thursdays, I am sitting in
front of a
blank screen, pulling my thoughts together for this week's
Letter from New York. And, as is often, I seem to be doing this while on
a mode of
transportation. Today, I'm on the Amtrak Acela coming from
D.C. to New
York, returning after two and a half days of meetings in D.C.
The Mideast continues to be in an impasse. Crown Prince Abdullah
Washington, and is giving the Bush administration dire warnings
the state of the Arab American alliance based on what is happening
Palestine and Israel. Riding a cab in the District right now
how to avoid the protesters, who have been protesting a number
things, causing traffic jams. Everything from the lack of
Argentina to the Mideast has been being protested this week.
I stayed at Hotel Rouge on 16th Street, not very from the
near some of the Embassies and, in appearance, looks like
it belongs in
New York's SoHo more than in Dupont Circle. The little bar
with young, attractive politicos both nights I was there,
who could have
been young stockbrokers.
Also, I noticed something I've never noticed before in DC
- and I lived
there for four years - the police cars traveled in groups,
than three, unnervingly most often in groups of five.
The Washington Post was filled with every nuance on the Mideast
and its ramifications, the entire first section an intelligent
today of what seems to be a deteriorating world situation.
The New York Times seemed evenly split between the crisis
in the Mideast
and the scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. USA Today's
feature story followed the changes in the lives of six individuals
As I waited in the Acela lounge for the train, the couple
me, a sweet pair from Bellingham, Washington, taking the train
Georgia for their son's wedding, on a trip that went smoothly
yesterday when they missed a connecting train and had to layover
Washington for twenty four hours. But they were taking it
graciously and were looking forward to the next phase. When
me where I lived, the question was, of course, how close?
were a string more they would have liked to have asked but
my train was
called and I limped out to it.
I say limped because I came down with a small case of flu,
a case of
something, one of those things that come suddenly - at 9:45
yesterday when my bones began to ache and growing more painful
scalp itself hurt at 6:30 p.m. After that, the ailment began
away from me, content to have caused me a day of discomfort
and to have
left me a bit drained. So, more dragging than limping, I worked
down the length of the train, taking my place with businesspeople
bureaucrats, while the gray skies billow ominously over the
It is a gray world on a gray day with a man writing on a
Glancing down at the New York Times I see the story of three
year old Palestinian boys who have been killed when they went
to try to
blow up an Israeli fortification. There is piece of my heart
spasms when I think of children marching to their deaths in
Children have always been susceptible to causes. It was a
woman, Antigone, who, in Greek legend, died so that her brother
buried with the proper rights. It was the children that the
pulled out of military schools in the civil way at the beginning
1920's in Russia. It was children that Adolph Hitler patted
cheeks in the last films taken of him because that was all
that was left
to defend him, the children.
We haven't treated children very well, historically.
Back sometime in the middle ages, there was an heir to the
that didn't make it out of swaddling clothes. His family was
as a ball to toss around and they tossed him right out the
The idea of fifteen year olds running out to strap explosives
bodies - or to defend Hitler - or defend the Tsar - or any
thousands of things teenagers have been manipulated into doing
side of any conflict is repugnant to me. And gets more so
the older I
get. I cannot say there is no cause that is not great enough
to die for
but I know as I grow into my middle age, that it seems there
more causes worth living for. And that I rather suspect the
are getting teenagers to do the dying are, like myself, middle-aged
not so willing to die for that cause.
Outraged and angry, I am not quite sure what to do with it.
Shouldn't I become surer of things as I grow older?