Some thoughts for a New Year:
In 1964, the Disney exhibit at the World’s Fair in Queens taught our brave new world that “It’s A Small World.”
That was a hopeful song. Our divisive world was coming to an end because we knew better than to think that anyone was better than anyone else. We knew technology would bring us together. We even learned, later on, that there are only six degrees of separation between you and me, for example.
Yes, it is a small world. We learn about things thousands of miles away in a few seconds. We bear the scars of wars, famine and disease very quickly.
Queens, in all its diversity, is very much a part of our divisive world. I don’t know how many residents have ties to the nations that suffer from Ebola and other terrible ailments and disasters, but I am sure there are quite a few.
While we may have heard of Ebola early on, it did not make an impact in this country until it reached here. Would it be too cynical to think that it did not register until the color of the skins of infected health workers on the scene was different from those they were aiding? Let us hope not, but the thought lingers, doesn’t it?
Africa: So near, so far, so exotic, so toxic, so much beauty, so much a part of what we would like to think of as a small, happy world. So much poverty, so much starvation, so much corruption, so much killing for ethnic or religious reasons or no reasons at all.
And, JFK is a gateway to this world, so we in Queens are part of it all, but we do not react until the wolf has entered the dining room and begun to eat the baby in the high chair.
And what of ISIS? In our brave new world of political transparency (please forgive the sarcasm) I don’t recall hearing anything about such a group until this past June. Yet, it turns out, our government knew of this barbaric, disgusting and evil organization for years, but we, the people, did not.
Transparency: Now we are engaged in some kind of anti-ISIS action. Of course, the Turks (our ally) don’t want to help because the Kurds may benefit. The Iraqis (Mission Accomplished) have neither the forces, nor it seems the will to act to protect their own lands. Is it too cynical to think our other “allies” are there for the record and not for the action?
Maybe there will be “no boots on the ground,” from the United States, but men and women from Queens continue to be on the front lines of any action against ISIS, while so many of our allies hold back. The wolf is at the door. The baby is in the high chair in the dining room.
In the 1620s, the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London wrote a book of Devotions. Many know some or all of one in particular (I use his spelling): “No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe … Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
Without planes, without the Internet, without all the technological gains of the last few centuries, John Donne believed in one world and with words like these urged others to do so.
As the wild bells ring out the old year and ring in the new, perhaps we should think about for whom and what they toll.
Do we really believe in one world? And, more importantly, how do we act to show that we do?
Happy New Year!