Articles taggés avec: Ricker Winsor

Sniper, a dog story (part two)

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 18 novembre 2017. dans La une, Ecrits

Sniper, a dog story (part two)

If you know about Border Collies, they are not even recommended as pets. My friend Charlie, the veterinarian, advises people who want to buy a border collie to also « buy three sheep ». That’s because border collies are super energetic and, without enough to do, these working dogs can raise a whole lot of hell. Lucky for us, and not knowing any of this at the time, Sniper was already two years old and not totally crazed but plenty strong and energetic. I walked him three times a day, every day, a long one in the morning and two shorter ones so he could mark his territory and feel some freedom.

I found that I couldn’t dominate him the way you can with a Labrador or other dogs like that who are so eager to please and so submissive actually. He almost bit me a couple of times, not a bite really but enough to show me that I had better be careful, that this was more a relationship of equals and not the master/slave thing. Once I got over the shock to my ego I accepted it and learned. He taught me that what we do together is something we share. It is quite amazing and I love how that has evolved. It was less easy for me than it was for him.

I found that his tail had been broken in a fight and hadn’t healed very well but healed it did with a crook in it now. I learned that he is a tough, dominant dog who will attack any male dog whenever possible and win. He has bones like a Swedish peasant and can pull me miles, which at my age is not a bad thing. Having him in the harness, you could plow a field. We found he had some medical problems, liver problems, and that required a couple of trips to the veterinary hospital and medication and x-rays. We learned how to feed him better as to not stress his liver and he is super healthy as a result. My wife cooks for the dogs twice a day, bathes them, and treats them like the children and family they actually are for us. I don’t see a lot of difference between their antics and affection and those of a couple of five-year olds but that is a whole different discussion.

After six months and with « peace in the valley » domestically, one afternoon a Papua man I had never seen came to the gate and wanted « to take Sniper out to play ». That was not something I wanted to do and I told him I was not comfortable with that. He was drunk, a young Papua guy with shaggy hair, strong, getting mad. He started yelling and pushing on the gate, shaking the gate back and forth and then the gate broke, a crucial weld having given way. I retreated to the house pushing my wife back and locked the door while she called the security station and also her mother who lives not far away. I grabbed an iron piece of exercise equipment and waited to see what would happen next as he pounded on the door. He stepped back and took the broken piece of metal from the gate and slung it against the door and then retreated to the street. The security man finally showed up, not too happy since they are scared of Papua people and are not used to having to actually act like security. Mostly they usher in cars at the gate, waving and taking it easy most of the time.

Sniper, a dog story (part one)

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 11 novembre 2017. dans La une, Ecrits

Sniper, a dog story (part one)

In Bali, we adopted a village-dog puppy we named Nana. She and her sister found their way, at about seven weeks of age, to the workplace of our neighbor. The office security people there were about to throw them against a wall, the customary way to kill puppies.

The dog situation in Bali is always out of control. Many dogs run wild, some with rabies, especially in the villages. Puppies can be born with rabies, a disease that kills them and the people they bite. Every once in a while, the government issues an order for the police to « thin the pack ». The last time this happened the dog death squad shot about nine thousand dogs.

So, the situation in Bali is different than other places. Once in a while, I would wake up in the middle of the night and look out on the street. Making their way silently, five or six very strong, healthy, wild dogs were carefully checking the garbage at each house. Medium-sized, strong village dogs, streamlined, well proportioned, like a pack of tropical wolves, they commanded respect and some fear. The street belonged to them. Once the sun was up they disappeared, vanished like the night.

Minutes before the puppies were about to be killed, our neighbor, Hanny, got involved and saved them. He is a nice man and took on this responsibility despite having two dogs himself. Hanny offered us one of sisters and I refused knowing how much a dog changes your life, no matter how great it is. But I have always had dogs and my wife also loves dogs so I took a careful look and I saw that one of them had long legs like a ballet dancer and perfect proportions, some kind of a Dalmatian mix with black and white patches. We named her Nana.

We brought her with us from Bali to Surabaya and settled in. She is a great dog but not in the way we know from Labradors and Goldens and Shepherds, dogs like that. A village dog has literally thousands of years of DNA tweaked by their special lives lived surviving on the street, avoiding endless dangers including poison. They are not the loyal dog we know who can’t wait to lay down its life for you, not like that. They don’t trust easily ; it takes time, but they are more interesting and a lot smarter than the « normal » dog but paradoxically not in trainability. A friend who has had one of these dogs for many years cautioned, « There are some things they just won’t do ». In some ways, they are smart more in the way a cat is smart. It is difficult to explain. I tell a good friend, a veterinarian, that she is more like a fox than a dog and that seems almost right.

Finding Indonesia

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 06 septembre 2017. dans Ecrits, La une, Voyages

Finding Indonesia

After four years as an expat here in Indonesia, with permanent residence status and no idea of turning back, I might be able to say a few things about this extraordinary country, a country made up of seventeen thousand islands stretching three thousand miles. It is the biggest Muslim country in the world.

Seven years ago, during a long-distance call, I said yes to a school director in Surabaya, and, within three weeks, packed up my house, found some tenants, sent a parcel ahead with books and art supplies, and got on the plane. I think I had just enough time to look at my atlas to see that, yes, Indonesia did exist, and, yes, it was « over there », wherever that was, in Asia.

It is worth mentioning that this happened in the afflicted year of 2009. Like so many other people, I was affected by the greedy worshipers of Mammon having stolen everything in sight by selling junk bonds, phony mortgages, and things of that nature at the expense of the helpless citizenry. My job as a part-time college administrator was eliminated so « Indonesia here I come ».

I wrote extensively about my initial year here in my first book, Pakuwon City, Letters from the East. I only stayed a year at that time due to many things including homesickness, tenants in my house deciding not to pay, things like that. But the fine woman I had met in Surabaya followed me several months later and that autumn, on a crisp October day, we were married in Vermont, in a field belonging to the justice of the peace. After a year in the snow and two more teaching in Trinidad, we came back to Indonesia, first to Bali for two years, and then to Surabaya, my wife’s home town.

Now I have a Chinese Indonesian wife, an extended family, two language teachers who teach me twice a week, a teaching job twice a week and full life in all ways. I am on the East side of Surabaya, the old side, and not the side where one might find other foreigners. I go months without seeing another bule, (pale face), which is fine with me. I speak Indonesian and have an Indonesian driver’s license and a Kitap Visa, permanent residence status. This is not so easy to obtain since they, perhaps wisely, and perhaps as a reaction to three hundred and fifty years of colonial life under the Dutch and three under the Japanese, don’t want foreigners involved here too much. Makes sense to me.

That being said, there are plenty of foreigners if you look for them, mostly in Jakarta or in Bali, and they pay their visa fees and enjoy a fine life. All this is a very brief introduction to what I want to say, that Indonesia may be the best place in the world to live at this time, perhaps at any time. And that is not because of the cost of living or the excellent cuisine. It is because of a culture of non-aggression, non-confrontation, a culture « sopan dan rama » which means polite and friendly. The subtlety of this goes down levels deeper than I can venture yet. Even the beginners’ depths are astoundingly different from what I am used to as a product of a violent, competitive culture, America.

Faith (Part II)

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 10 juin 2017. dans La une, Ecrits

Faith (Part II)

A consideration of these things depends on an understanding, a knowledge or belief that there is life beyond this life, that there is continuity even if we don’t know the details. A poet friend of mine, David Kherdian, said : « The evidence is everywhere », which it is for the believers.

Paul, who was formally Saul, a hunter of the followers of Jesus, put it this way in his letter to the Romans, « …ever since the creation of the world, the invisible existence of God and his everlasting power have been clearly seen by the mind’s understanding of created things ».

In these current days, it should be easier to see than ever before since our understanding of the magnitude of the universe has expanded exponentially in the last few years and it keeps expanding, becoming more complex, vaster beyond the mind’s capacity to grasp, adding other dimensions, throwing into doubt everything we know of time, cause and effect, logic. Even the fundamental accepted notion of a « big-bang » is under reconsideration, a new idea being that there never was a beginning and there never will be an end. It is in sync with a prayer in the Catholic Liturgy : « Glory be to the father, to the son, and to the holy spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen ». « Now and ever shall be, world without end ».

Instinctively, to me that seems right that we manifest for reasons we cannot know ; we play our part and move on when it is time to do so. The eastern view is that we keep coming back to this life until we « get it right » have come to completion. Then we don’t have to incarnate any more, at least not here.

Most spiritual thinkers I have studied consider our inchoate longings, our alienation, just a desire to return to unity with LOGOS, the assumption being that, at some point, we knew that state and miss it deeply. We were in the garden of delight and then out of it, a perfect metaphor for how we feel. The farther we are from « the garden » the more painful it is.

Perhaps « playing our part » well in life allows us to « move on » to a situation that gets us closer to that ultimate completion we seek. This is a satisfying way to think and suggests logical assumptions about the fates of saints and criminals beyond this life.

Spiritual progress does not depend on faith. In more than one place in the Bible it is stated that « if someone does his best according to whatever understanding he has, he is justified ». And that also makes sense. I have known many people, including atheists and agnostics, who did very well in spiritual terms according to their understanding. Faith is pleasure, like icing on the cake, a comfort but not a necessity to living a great and generous life.

Louise Wade was black and from South Carolina. Her grandmother was a slave. Louise ironed shirts and underwear and pants for rich white people in the town where I was raised. Her son had died, been killed somehow back in the South. All her hair had fallen out. That is all we knew. She only wanted to iron down in the basement by the washing machine and the furnace, an unfinished basement. She would never enter through the front door of the house. She sang hymns softly while she did her perfect work.

A Higher state

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 03 juin 2017. dans La une, Ecrits

A Higher state

In nineteen sixty-eight I was part of a Hindu meditation group that included Alan Ginsberg. Earlier, Jack Kerouac and others had brought an awareness of Buddhism into popular culture. A flood of influence was coming from the east. At the core of it was the idea of bliss, that it was achievable through practice, dedication, and discipline.

In our monthly meditation group in lower Manhattan we repeated the mantra « Ram » silently and sat in meditation. Swami Kumar, a philosophy student from India, told us about the goal of « realization ». At one point, he asked our group of about twenty-five aspirants, « Who among you believes he will be realized in this lifetime ? » I was the only one who raised a hand, naively maybe but still… Kumar looked shaken and asked me to explain my answer. I backed off and mumbled something about « to the extent that I can » or some such thing, which made him relax a bit. But truthfully, I raised my hand in sincerity, the hand of an idealist, someone who has slipped the grasp of this world to an unusual degree.

This is not to suggest that I, at age twenty-four, felt perfect in any way ; quite the contrary. I felt lost, struggling, confused, not sure of myself, and mal adapted to the adult world I was suppose to be joining. And yet I was aware of something untouchable by the world and a sense that no matter how bad things got in this life it was still ok. How to explain that ? Where did that come from ? I expect it is something all people have in common but mostly without being aware of it. Speculating about that makes no sense. It is hard enough to know our own truth. My interest has always been in my own experience, my perceptions, my reactions to the world. It sounds selfish, but for me it is all I have.

There was nothing egoist in my gesture at that meeting, just a reaction, but one that now seems particularly interesting after forty-eight intervening years, years which have included the practices referred to above, to study, to time spent in monasteries, to conversations with priests and poets, a lifetime of years.

The pitfall of this topic is self glorification. I know a man, a pastor, self-appointed, an ex alcoholic who was saved by Jesus and has dedicated his life to spreading the gospel. He runs workshops and evangelizes all around Southeast Asia. He is intense, intelligent, and knows the Bible very well. At a gathering recently, we ran into each other and I mentioned that I had taken on reading every word of the Bible, something that seemed important to do for many reasons. If nothing else, the Bible qualifies as an essential part of a classical education in the same way that knowing Homer does.

I mentioned to him that I felt there was a benefit beyond knowledge to this activity I had taken on, that there was a mystical type of support coming from the activity itself, something I felt. He laughed and said, eyes gleaming, « Thanks for telling me, Ha Ha Ha », the idea being that I couldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know and better than I did. He went on to say, in so many words, « When, like me, you can see it all from the other side, then you will know something ». He followed up with, « I don’t mean to say I am better than you or other people », but it was too late. The ego had already reared its head. Spiritual superiority is insidious and ugly.

So, what is this really all about ? I long had the suspicion that « realized » people were among us and not necessarily sitting on pillows surrounded by tambura music, incense, and « followers ». They would be barbers, maids working in houses of rich people, teachers, farmers, anybody. And it is not clear that they would even consider themselves « realized ». The only thing the Buddha said about the state he achieved after huge effort was, « I am awake ». It wasn’t the epileptic ecstasy we think of as a nirvanic state. I use that term because I witnessed epileptic ecstasy.

The Persistence of Ignorance

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 15 avril 2017. dans La une, Ecrits

The Persistence of Ignorance

A young student asked me recently, « Mr. Winsor, do you think history is important ? » I said, « When I was growing up we heard that history is important to know so that we learn from the past and don’t repeat our mistakes. But now that I have lived seventy-two years I have to wonder about that. It seems to me we haven’t learned anything ; we keep repeating the same mistakes, so maybe history isn’t important. It is always subjective anyway, always written by the winners ».

The human community has been in trouble since the beginning and holds fast to that trouble despite a choking amount of information to help it out of that trouble and despite having the greatest tool to do that, the human brain itself. It has only been four generations since television was invented and spread around to almost every house. There was an expectation that this amazing invention would educate people and bring them out of ignorance. It hasn’t worked. Most people are lazy, it seems, and only want television to help them escape or have it tell them what they already believe and want to hear about issues. There seems to be no need to be challenged by new information, new ideas.

One of my friends is a doctor, an atheist, and an expert on evolution. He says, « The human brain is wired to be curious, to be seeking understanding, making discoveries. If that is not happening, there is something wrong with the wiring ». Based on what I said in the previous paragraph, it would seem there is a great deal wrong with « the wiring ». Either that, or evolution has screeched to a halt.

 Another friend is an enemy of « left leaning liberals ». He is on what I would call « the rabid right », the alt right being the proper term ; not thinking, dangerous. But he is a loyal friend from childhood. I sent him a link to « The National Review » because it is a thoughtful, conservative « rag ». My friend is a CPA accountant, not a dummy. He wrote back, « I don’t read left-wing rags ». I said « The National Review is a conservative voice started by William F. Buckley ». He answered, « I know that. Never cared much for Buckley », by which I understood that he didn’t know that and didn’t bother to make two clicks on his I pad to find out about it, something that would have taken less than thirty seconds.

In researching this topic, I came across a thesis stating that our ideas are so deeply held as to be actually physical. Seeing new or opposing evidence just makes a person struggle harder to defend what he already believes. In other words, a considered good argument will have very little effect on changing a person’s thinking.

As we grow up and develop our personalities, a number of core ideas get bundled together and become an unassailable fortress against new information coming from the world. I suppose this makes things simpler. I came up with a phrase to help me explain this phenomenon : « Ignorant people want simple solutions to complex problems ». It provides them relief from what is otherwise a permanent condition of stress to make sense of a world that mostly does not make sense.

What will it take to change our thinking if we are totally invested in a set of ideas ? It won’t happen by argument ; that is clear. My own experience is that if I give myself a little distance from that bundle of ideas I carry with me, there is a chance I can accept another way of thinking about things. It is almost a spiritual technique of non-attachment or at least of loosening one’s grip on that attachment. Life is short ; we live in a mind-bogglingly immense universe that only seems to get bigger as our knowledge increases. How important can one’s political ideas actually be ? The humility that comes with this kind of thinking is liberating, actually pleasurable.

My atheist friend, the evolution expert, gets great peace from his acceptance of annihilation. « When you really understand evolution and DNA you don’t need religion ». About life after death he says, « They will never know how wrong they were (the believers). We become stardust, nothing more ».

Tupelo by Alec Clayton

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 18 mars 2017. dans La une, Littérature

Tupelo by Alec Clayton

Tupelo is Alec Clayton’s eighth book. I have read most of them if not all. I have watched his writing carefully. We both are painters and writers. In fact, I met Alec when he reviewed my first painting show back in 1994 in Tacoma, Washington, « The City of Destiny » as it is known. He was the arts writer for a local-events paper, a good one.

That was before he wrote his first book, before he reclaimed his memories of boyhood and coming of age in the deep culture of post-war Mississippi. The other books are full of interesting characters and situations particular to the south in many ways but not to the extent that Tupelo is.

In Tupelo Alec allowed himself to be that boy and young man again, and to be that entirely and unapologetically, to own it. And own it he does. He delivers the expressions, the nuances of deep southern culture, with a voice in perfect pitch, never missing a beat. They are as integrated into the story as white on rice.

Inevitably, one of the great themes of the book is the racial divide, how black and white interact with such complexity, mixing love, affection, fear, and hate. Alec explores this more like a poet than a sociologist, leaving us satisfied in a peculiar way because truth is satisfying although not necessarily comfortable. More telling than all the words I have ever read about racism is Alec’s story that tells of living its ironic beauty, its cruelties, its ignorance, and its heart breaks. He brings the reader inside the feelings and tensions of the people involved in a deeply personal way.

There are many beautiful things about this book. He made a master stroke right from the beginning, in the conception of it all, by having the twin brother Kevin tell the story from the grave. What that allowed is for the story to be told from the first person and from the omniscient observer at the same time with no shocks to the reader, seamless and smooth. One minute Kevin can be sitting out on the curb looking up at a window of the house where Wanda is dressing and the next moment he is in the room watching her, knowing her thoughts and describing her situation, listening to the conversation she is having with her mother. As the reader, you don’t even notice this unless, as an appreciator of literature, as a writer, you just note it and applaud its brilliance.

Because of the natural beauty of Alec Clayton’s prose, and the flow of the narrative, it is easy to miss the stunning craft this writer has mastered over eight fine books. The roll of the prose is like the big river itself moving smoothly forward carrying us along, reminding me of Mark Twain at his best, those special days when Huck and Jim shared a log raft on the Mississippi and were free and full of life in the southern sun.

There were so many places where the plot could have been manipulated in some predictable way, so many ways it could have been more dramatic here or there. With great discipline and restraint, the writer stayed true to what’s real, that things don’t always end with a bang, that situations hang with tension in the air, that life goes on pretty much the way it always has, not the great ecstasy or the great tragedy but some of both. And this sense of restraint allows the reader to trust and enter more fully into the story without fearing some cruel, surprising jolt coming from out of the blue.

Time passes in the story, a lifetime passes. Things change as they inevitably do and usually not for the best. Systems fall apart ; its called entropy. There is a good writer named Rohintan Mistry, whose first book, A Fine Balance, won many awards. It is a great work up to a certain point and then, perhaps having heard about entropy, Mr. Mistry goes about destroying every good thing about the characters, situations, and relationships he has so beautifully created. I still hate him for that. In discussing this destruction with others, I have heard them say, « But that is the way it is ». I don’t buy it. And Alec Clayton does not buy it either because most of his people are still standing, metaphorically, at the end of the story even if they are not there anymore. And the ending is unusual, surprising, moving, and as satisfying as stark naked honesty must always be.

Watching the evolution of Alec Clayton’s writing over the past twenty years has been like watching a long-distance runner who starts from behind but slowly, as the race goes on, starts picking off the runners ahead, gaining strength as time passes until he crosses the finish line ahead of the pack. Bravo !

 

Review by Ricker Winsor

Surabaya, Indonesia

February 23, 2017

I can’t breathe

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 19 novembre 2016. dans Monde, La une, Ecrits, Politique, Actualité

I can’t breathe

I feel like I can’t breathe, drowned by the tsunami that just befell my country and the whole world. All of a sudden everything is up for grabs, including a woman’s right to choose, steps to combat climate change, NATO alliances, trade agreements, immigration, just about everything. But I won’t talk about all that ; so much has been said and is known by the reading public. Over the last eighteen months the brightest writers and thinkers had intellectually tied up Trump and thrown into the scrap heap of history. They were all wrong.

What has been thrown out is an approach to life that is egalitarian, compassionate, and respectful, an ethos based on the humanitarian ideals of a liberal democracy. Not too long ago all political combatants could be found in the shelter of that umbrella no matter what their differences. No more.

This debacle has been characterized as a « revolt against the elites » but it is more like revenge against « those who think they are better than us », those who worked to improve their minds through education and got ahead using their brains. It comes out of deep anger and resentment and a serious sense of inferiority. How else could the populace turn their backs on Trump’s blatant disrespect for : women, Muslims, Mexicans, and those who prepare and do their homework (e.g. Hillary and the debates). Our new leader thinks it is ok to grab women « by the pussy ». « When you are a star you can do anything you want » he said. He laughs at the disabled and, well, no need for me to go through the long list. What kind of message does this send to young people trying to grow up ? « Nice guys finish last » is what it says ; it is ok to bully anyone to put yourself forward, to win the race.

I get invited to certain occasions at the American Consulate here in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, the second biggest city. And today I was invited to witness the final day of the election. I prepared myself to answer questions about how I felt, never for a minute believing that Trump could win. I prepared my thoughts like this : « I am honestly disgusted that a man like Trump could actually have gotten this far in the election process. That fact itself discredits America and debases, if not annihilates, the idea of American exceptionalism ».

Now what do I do ? Our new chief has a majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Checks and balances are minimal. He also won decisively, very decisively. All of the bruhaha about every woman in America standing against him, the surge of Latinos voting, the blacks and minorities being involved and taking a stand, never happened. A lot of them voted for Trump.

It is important to say something about Hillary Clinton beyond how she has been portrayed and the consequent vague or not so vague opinion of her. Even those who are dismayed by the existence of Trump often expressed dislike or suspicion about Mrs. Clinton. Based on what ? Nothing, only lies and bullshit. She is of my generation, the idealists, the ones who dreamed of « open borders », of everyone « getting along », of equal opportunity and service. Her whole life has been dedicated to that. I witnessed it all, and not from so far away because of university connections. She is one of « us » the sixties generation that fought for civil rights, for women’s rights, for Vista, for the Peace Corps, for inner city programs. We fought against that ill-considered debacle, war in Viet Nam. And yet, through a steady campaign that would make Joseph Goebbels smile from hell, where he no doubt dwells, the « no nothings » polluted the spring until they created « Crooked Hillary ».

Root River Return, by David Kherdian

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 09 avril 2016. dans La une, Ecrits

Root River Return, by David Kherdian

In 1970, I was a refugee from Brooklyn living in a broken down old house in Lyme, New Hampshire. I came into the country for the same reason that many of my generation did, to heal the stresses of the lunatic sixties and to find a better way of life. Working as a low laborer with a local construction crew, I tried to fit in as best I could. I tried to decipher their deep New England way of talking. It seemed like another language that had developed without a thought to the world beyond.

My goal was to learn how to do a hard day’s work and I did, hoisting plank after plank onto the roof of the house the Kherdians had bought on the edge of the big forest at the foot of Bear Hill. We rebuilt their whole roof and in the process I understood that he was a poet. We got to know each other a bit beyond the landowner/worker relationship. It was probably obvious I was not a « local » and had my own story and reasons for being where I was, and it would be especially obvious to a perceptive and sensitive poet.

Many years passed, about forty five, and then somehow I saw an announcement of David’s book of poems, « Living in Quiet », Deerbrook Editions 2013 and it all came back and stayed back ; I can see all the scenes of long ago in perfect clarity. Or as the poet says :

10 Years Later

Standing on the leafy bank

on my first day back

overlooking hills & ravines

and the river I fished,

I knelt, reached back over

the years, and threw a stick

that tumbled a wild green apple

Dear Paris

Ecrit par Ricker Winsor le 05 décembre 2015. dans Ecrits, La une, Actualité

Dear Paris

In the aftermath of the atrocity committed in Paris I wrote a condolence letter to a friend there. He responded and mentioned other things but with no reference of my heartfelt sympathies. And, somehow, that seemed just right, like the sound of one hand clapping, like a fraught, existential, and blank idea balloon kept in the air of consciousness by our mutual understanding. It was appropriate, like a story about death ending in the middle of a sentence. Because there is nothing left to say and, of course, everything left to say.

I am a New Yorker who remembers the thudding sound of bodies hitting the pavement as victims who, a moment before, were going about their business or talking to their loved ones at home in the suburbs, now suddenly found themselves airborne to oblivion in escape from the merciless fire. A friend living near the two towers got on the roof of her loft building and saw people jumping from the towers, some of them holding hands and one, she noted, actually doing a swan dive, taking his last moment to express a gesture of defiant poetry against death. It makes sense in the current context to remember that there was great rejoicing about this in the Muslim neighborhoods of New Jersey. We New Yorkers have not forgotten that.

Our president, Barak Obama, said that the Paris murders were an « attack on all humanity », a comment made more poignant because Paris, in many ways, is the cultural capital of humanity. And it will continue to be that. Somehow, in an unpredictable irony, New York became a much better place after 9/11. People were friendlier, more outgoing. The sense of comradery that has always been a part of New York identity increased in the wake of the disaster. I am not sure if that warm feeling extended to Middle Easterners. I expect this « spirit de corps » phenomenon to occur in Paris too. Those who survive an atrocity are bonded by grief, anger, and a certain pride they discover in the courage to carry on.

Friday the 13th was a tipping point for the French and also for the rest of the free world. It is a different feeling now. We were angered and shocked by the Charlie Hebdo attack and by the murders in a kosher grocery but we also knew that the cartoonists, although within their right of free speech, so central to any democracy, were pushing the envelope, asking for trouble. And the Jews, well the Jews have always been ground zero for abuse and tragedy ; nothing new about that. But this new savagery had nothing to do with anything other than a warped sense of religiosity and a kind of nihilism that celebrates killing for its own sake.

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