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New York faces the future
The Economist (9/7-13/02) said "A report by New York city's comptroller estimated that September 11 would cost the city $83--95 billion, depending on how many jobs are permanently moved out ot the city". It is against this background that the joint session of Congress in New York city must be viewed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg got $1 million from the Annenberg family to pay the cost of transporting and feeding the crowd, which came by train from Washington. Security must have been tight. It might have been possible to eliminate the whole of Congress. Politicians are a peculiar breed. They must boast and flatter their audience. Bloomberg and and Charles Rangel, "the dean of the New York delegation" competed in boasting about New York, the capital of the free world. Under it all one heard appeals for business not to leave New York. Rangel, a Democrat, made a remark which might be interpreted as a warning not to attack Iraq.
The crowd listened dutifully to the political speeches, but became alive when Susan Magazine, the widow of a fireman killed on 9/11, spoke. She spoke movingly, from the heart. Bloomberg boasted that New York was the cultural capital of the nation, and, to prove it, introduced a black trumpeter, who played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" beautifully. The Stars and Stripes is a fine national emblem. The city was presented the flag which flew over the Capitol on 9/11. A black girl with a good voice sang the "Star Spangled Banner", striving mightily to reach the high notes.It would be a humanitarian act to replace it as the national anthem with "God bless America" or "My country. t'is of Thee". It would also make the US look less bellicose.
WAISers will remember the debate between eaglephiles and rurkeyphiles as the symbol of the US. A turkeyphile myself, I keep the peace by displaying together a large turkey donated by Les Robinson and a bald eagle presented by Jaqui White. It is slightly smaller than the turkey, but to make up for that, it is accompanies by another eagle and a condor from Chile, via Hollywood. I therefore felt superior when Bloomberg presented the four congressional leaders with small bald eagles. Big turkeys would have been a better symbol of a city boasting of its prosperity.
Blacks, but not other minorities, were very much in evidence. It was announced that a UN celebration will be headed by two blacks: Kofi ¡Annan and Colin Powell. Powell has just returned from the Johannesburg, where he was booed. Among the booers were some Americans who apparently could afford to pay the fare to Johannesburg. On the way home, Powell stopped in Angola and Gabon, which, as the New York Times (9/6/02) explained, have great importance because of their large oil resources, important in case oil from the Middle East were in jeopardy. This may help explain the present obsession with Africa.
Another reason for this obsession is that Africa is explosive. When I was in South Africa during the apartheid period, special permission had to be obtained to visit the large black community, Soweto, next to Johannesburg. I did not receive permission, so I just saw Soweto from the highway. Now Soweto has become the center of a black revolutionary movement, for which Mugabe of Zimbabwe has become a hero, just as Sadam Hussein is for many Arabs,
Where does all this leave New York? My guess is that many businesses will not return to New York, which is an obvious target. H.G. Wells did not know how prophetic he was when he visited New York and commented "This would make a fine ruin".I favor the dispersal of human activities, and I am a critic of large cities generally. At the same time I wish New York and Mayor Bloomberg well.
Ronald Hilton - 9/7/02