Yesterday John Lennon’s Imagine came onto the radio. I remember when I requested this song on Capital FM in 2001 when the attacks on the World Trade Center first happened.
You may have noticed that I’ve been quiet for two weeks. I’ve been busy never sleeping in the city that is similarly caffeine-fuelled. So many impressions, so much to talk about.
I visited the 9/11 Memorial on one of my first days in New York. Although full of tourists (some bizarrely finding it appropriate to pose smiling in front of the memorial as if it were any tourist attraction), I found it a beautifully serene place. The two missing towers are represented by two large waterfalls cascading down into the space where the buildings used to stand. The names of the 3,000 victims are engraved all around the reflective pools of water. Although the museum is still being built, the visitor centre shows videos of the victims’ friends and relatives talking about their loved ones. I heard a father tell how one of his sons had chosen to become a firefighter, the other a policeman. On the day of the attack, the last words he had spoken to both of his sons were “I love you”.
As I was walking back uptown, a friendly guy on the street asked me if I had a moment for gay and lesbian rights. I did. He explained the discriminatory laws that remain in many states allowing companies to fire their employees for being homosexual, and that they were looking for donations to support their cause in the Senate… Yesterday on Facebook, there were posts about the Salvation Army’s alleged assertion that “gays need to be put to death” based on the teachings of the Bible. (Incidentally, I’ve started reading the Bible, and so far I find the Old Testament to be a pretty shocking story of a vindictive god, the killing off other people to take their land, recipes for slaughtering different animals as sacrifices for various sins, calls for stoning, and the labelling of women who have their periods as well as those suffering from leprosy as being unclean.) … And this year’s Tony Award-winning musical, Kinky Boots, tells the unlikely true story of a Northampton shoe factory turning to producing sexy women’s shoes in men’s sizes for the niche market of London’s drag queens, at times hilarious but with moments that tell the more serious tale of discrimination and abuse that these men have faced.
A few nights ago, I went to see Lee Daniels’ The Butler (at the largest cinema I’ve ever been to! Endless escalators to get to the screen). The film follows one man’s journey from the cotton fields of Georgia to serving in the White House and the final moment of Barack Obama’s momentous election. We witness the changes that take place, the progress and the setbacks with regard to ‘the race issue’, as different presidents come and go. Through the focus on one individual and his family (fictional, though loosely inspired by the real Eugene Allen), the historical events of the past century become all the more poignant and shocking. (Stalin is often quoted to have said, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”)
Recently I’ve been hearing about more teenagers who have committed suicide following bullying on Facebook and other social networks.
Oh and then there was the mall attack in Kenya.
All this to say that it makes me sad. Hate and discrimination. Why.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
More posts to come on the fun side of New York, I promise.