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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

June 8, 2006

Thinking Introspectively and Retrospectively…

Even before the alarm, I was awake, listening to the soft beat of rain drops on the cottage roof. The Northeast has been covered by leaden skies dispensing rain, mixed with a chill that will not let go. Wisps of gray fog swirl over the Hudson River and through the woods surrounding the house.

It is weather made for retrospection and introspection. I worked from home; rain pelted down all day yesterday and I was grateful for a fire in the Franklin stove.

We are coming up on the fifth anniversary of 9/11; five years ago we were living the last summer of our homeland innocence. Every network I know has planned their anniversary programming as I am sure has every news magazine. 9/11: Five Years Later!

Sitting in a meeting at one of my production company clients, a senior executive at their parent company dropped by, and we chatted. Her tentative plan is to leave New York when her retirement comes. She does not want to spend her Golden Years “in the world’s biggest terrorist target.”

Such sentiments have resulted in many finding homes upstate. Most of them are weekenders and for many their weekend place is their lifeboat, the place they will retreat if something “bad” happens in the city.

Far away in Iraq, bad things continue to happen. I woke to the news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was dead, killed in air strike against a secluded “safe” house along with a half dozen or so of his aides.

In the soft and enveloping darkness of my bedroom, with the rain pattering on the roof, I found no relief that he is dead though it is both, probably, strategically and tactically “good” he is gone. I am sure he will, however, become a “martyr” for the “the cause” and the result will be an up tick in recruitment for the “the cause.”

We have, I think, reached that weary point in the Iraqi conflict when both sides no longer feel so clear about the essence of their cause. The polls and blogosphere are clearly telling Mr. Bush and the Republican Party that there is discontent with administration policy. In Iraq, the streets are filled with death and despair, the air rife with anger – but against whom?

9/11 was a turning point; it will be decades before history will be able to parse full meaning from the day and the ultimate effects it will have on the course of our nation. We now have major conflicts far away; our world standing is unequalled and unparalleled in the antagonism that standing is generating.

While we fight, our ability to save lives on the battlefield is dramatically enhanced, while at home we struggle with providing health care for most. Gas prices have escalated as has our national debt and while our attention is focused on military maneuvers we have failed to devote our energy and intelligence to understanding and coping with the complex set of historical and cultural issues that have brought us to loggerheads with Islam. We have not found a platform for conversation nor have we much expressed a desire for dialogue with the angry men who are leading this murderous diatribe against the west.

The threat of terrorism now stares down every western country; Canada seems to have found a cadre of men whose intention was to wreck havoc in Toronto and to storm Parliament, seeking to behead the Prime Minister.

Attempting to absorb all this results, for me, in the feeling I am living in some black and white sci-fi movie seen on the Saturday afternoon movie when I was pre-adolescent. It all seems surreal and not very plausible; except it is the world we inhabit.

While the wealth of the U.S. flows outward to support our military engagements in the Middle East, many Americans are now unconvinced that this course of action has done anything to enhance our safety. Hence we seek weekend retreats and retirement homes in places distant from potential carnage, where the once assumed safety of civilization might still be counted upon.