Letter From New York: Irrational Anger
By Jim Scanlon
A deep anger always fills me when I walk around Ground Zero. And then guilt at the anger and fear that the anger might be seen or sensed by others and misunderstood. I don't like it.
The anger is not directed at the Arabs who did Nine Eleven. Nine Eleven really has nothing to do with it. It is directed at the people I lived with for the past 50 years, at "my fellow Americans," the silent majority, the quiescent ones, and especially at the criminally insane officials of the Reagan Administration who formulated the policy of "fighting a nuclear war and winning." As if it were some kind of boxing match. or football game.
Helpless anger shifts to the smooth talking proponents of war who mix the ordinary, "ho-hum" violence and destruction of the XXth Century like destroying 16 acres of a city and killing a mere 3,000 people with the potential violence and destruction inherent in atomic weapons as if they were equivalent or equal.
I walked around Ground Zero by accident since I couldn't get off the subway at South Ferry due to a security rule change. I had to go back one stop to Rector Street. Confused, I walked west instead of east. Although it was only 6 PM on a Tuesday there were few people about. It was dark but I could see that. the pit that was Ground Zero was rising up and beginning to look like the base of something.
On West Street, most of the exits from the World Financial Center were closed and security men in heavy coveralls with hand held radios were everywhere. The wind was blowing off the river and it was very cold. Lugging my suitcase south, in the shadows, men in camouflage clothing with machine guns were inspecting trucks. Like the security guards, their heavy clothing made them appear larger, robot like, and menacing.
When I left NY in the 1960s I felt a deep sense of relief and gratitude towards John and Robert Kennedy for what they did in preventing a nuclear war. I felt the same way towards Nikita Khurschev and his advisors. There seemed to be some sanity and the recognition that nothing-nothing-was worth an atomic war. That the use of atomic bombs seemed to be taboo.
The destructive power of those weapons seemed to be constraining the military, evolving into a policy called MAD, mutually assured destruction, that is, only with opponents each possessing nuclear weapons and having the suicidal determination to use them, could the use of nuclear weapons be avoided. With only one side being armed, the system would be out of balance.
As time passed and World War II became condensed into a 45 minute presentation on the History Channel (commercials not included!), the depression, unemployment, Hitler gesticulating wildly, appeasement, the invasion of France, tanks racing through water filled ditches, German Heinkel's dropping bombs on England, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, Iwo Jima, B-29s dropping bombs on Japan, the mushroom clouds, peace and victory celebrations.
The lesson learned was that the Holocaust should never be repeated, but the war, with 40,000,000 dead, and who knows how many mangled, twisted lives, well, that could , perhaps, happen again-maybe-if we didn't dedicate ourselves to a strong military with a vast arsenal of weapons sufficient to destroy any enemy over and over again. In other words, the typical insane logic of rich, powerful angry men! The logic that started the two previous wars!
Then, the Star Wars, bomb crazy Reagan card strategists bluffed the slightly less suicidal Russians and won that particular psychotic game of who was craziest.
Out Of The Frying Pan ...
But then 19 really suicidal Arabs with 4 stolen air liners killing a mere 3,000 people managed to create a new, twisted reality, and now, commercial aircraft, 100 year old artillery shells with your grandfather's mustard and nerve gases, pathetic losers with sneakers with soles of plastic explosives are all lumped together and are coequal to city obliterating multi megaton nuclear bombs.
Couldn't we, maybe, just try to work something out? You know, maybe get rid of a few thousand multi megaton bombs we don't really need anymore, to maybe, set a good example. And maybe when a country like Libya renounces nuclear weapons, might it not be a good idea not to openly gloat and brag triumphantly that their leaders did it out of fear the US would get them?
I had been thinking of being in NY for the Republican Convention in September, a few days before the third anniversary of 911. Now I'm thinking that maybe I don't want to be there.
Marriage & Same Sex Polygamy
Many people I know are critical of the intrusive federal educational program called "No child left behind" promoted by the Republican party that had fought so hard for the right of states to be free from federal intrusion and to keep big government "off the backs of business," will soon be telling elementary school boards what they can teach!
I personally do not know anyone in favor of government support of marriage or against "gay marriage... my circle of friends and acquaintances on the west coast were, almost all of them, divorced, at least one time-that is, if they got married in the first place. Just about all my friends and relatives on the east coast are still married to the same people. Both groups might be summed up as advising: "Just call "gay marriage" something else, like 'civil union'." and "I've got enough to worry about!"
Aside from the financial effect of creating a new class of beneficiaries-stay at home same sex spouses-something one rarely hears discussed, one concern is the effect that expanding civil partnership status might have on others.
For example, traditional polygamous Mormons are now suing in Federal Court to allow a man to legally marry more than one woman. They claim the bible allows men to have many wives. (Women, so far don't seem interested in having more than one husband at a time.) They are all adults, so why should the government tell them what to do in their private lives? But, if heterosexual men can marry multiple partners, why not homosexuals too? I would be a simple question of equity.
But, if a bi sexual man married a bi sexual woman, why couldn't one, or both, marry a same sex partner. and live together? This may sound ridiculous but who having lived through the blatant and rampant racism and sexism of just a few decades ago could ever have imagined there might be open public acceptance of same sex couples? Could happen!
The Unending Quest for Easy Money
Just a few decades ago, New York society still expressed the repressive hypocritical "Puritan" values so prevalent in nearby New England. The separate cultures of gay men and women flourished, although in their own localities in their own "closets." Deregulated prostitution flourished, but not in the open. Abortion was illegal, and severely punishable, but it too was easily obtainable especially if one had a little money and a few friends. Profanity and vulgar language was all too common, but not on the screen, radio or in public.
Gambling was illegal as it still is except that now the state gets its cut. In fact the combination of state-capitalist gambling is flourishing to such an extent that it seems to be getting totally out of control.
Besides racetracks and off track betting parlors, there are two daily numbers that one can play, the regular number which pays off a maximum of $500 daily or $80 per dollar in combination. The other is the Pick 4 which maxes at $5000 and $200 in various combinations. There are also bonuses for double numbers calculated using obscure rules.
One can also play Quick Pick numbers every five minutes or so, in, say, a restaurant where a video monitor displays numbers that you play before they change $5, 10, 15, 25, whatever.
In addition to the above, one can still play the parallel, illegal numbers run by the so called Mafia. The rules are similar except that you don't have to pay taxes if you should against the odds actually hit the number.
I almost forgot to include the stock market, but that's another story.
All this gambling is supposed to help schools although the largest share, around 87%, goes to "administrative" costs. Whatever help actually goes to education, one wonders, what effect all this gambling has upon the kids?
Now New York State is allowing video slot machines in bars, perhaps to help the compulsive cigarette smokers who can no longer smoke inside bars-or outside them either!
New York Indian Tribes who sell gasoline, cigarettes and liquor tax free on their reservations and now on the Internet, are expanding Casino gambling. An Indian tribe recently bought the Montecello Race Track about an hour's drive from Manhattan in the Catskills, where they are building two Casinos.
It seems impossible to estimate how much money is bet illegally on sports in general and on football pools in particular. Every bar has a pool and it is sometimes difficult to get a "box." The payoffs on some of them go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, tax free.
New Yorkers are not the only ones doing this. The media loves stories of rags to riches and riches to rags, fools squandering easy money. My father, no Puritan he, was against gambling. "There is no easy money, " he said. "There's a price attached to everything. Easy money, makes you lazy. You lose respect for money. You only appreciated what you earn, what you worked for? "My poor old dad: he thought himself so modern.
Jacob Sullum reported in the NY Post that he received .73¢ as his part of the $18 million settlement of a class action law suit against a NY Bank. The lawyers got $7,200,000.00. My brother received .27¢ as his share of a similar multi million dollar class action suit involving mutual funds. This reminded me of how liberal the California courts are: a few years ago I received $1.19 in a settlement of claims against Apple Computer for misleading claims in advertising their 15" color monitors in 1992.
The Staten Island Advance reported on a man who was sentenced to a year in jail for swindling his mother out of $204,000. The man's lawyer said he "had cut the plea deal to spare his mother the ordeal of testifying," adding, "He loves his mom very much."
Immediately below the case of the loving son, the Advance reported on a 38 year old man who was sentenced to from two to six years in state prison for identity theft in using a woman's credit card to pay a $46.00 bill for Chinese food.
Life Isn't Cheap in New York
Despite a multi billion dollar settlement for the families of victims of the World Trade Center collapse, families of 12 of the firefighters who died in the disaster are suing the Motorola Corporation, the maker of hand held radios that did not work in high rise buildings for $5,000,000,000. New York City is also named in the suit. Let's see, five billion divided by twelve is how much?
The City is also facing law suits totaling $3,000,000,000 arising out of injuries and deaths from the crash of a ferry traveling at full speed into Staten Island.
The low temperature today was 13 degrees and-1 below zero with wind chill.
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