Thoughts about America in October 2020, my 90th year

Thu, 10/29/2020 - 6:00pm

Looking back, I see three national convulsions that have changed the world I’ve lived in: the Wall Street crash of 1929; Pearl Harbor; and the fiery destruction of the trade towers on 9/11.

And now a fourth: the Covid-19 epidemic.

The Great Depression shaped my early years without my being aware of it. My middle-class family weathered the1930s with back-up from a wealthy grandmother. The ‘40s brought the Second World War, a father sent to fight the Japanese in the Pacific, a mother managing the home-front, and me as a New York City teenager awash in the excitement of a world on fire—from a safe distance.

The decades that followed the Great Depression show on my reflective retina as a busy blur of education, military service, marriage, child-rearing, jobs, and significantly, in the 1980s, a move from New York City to Block Island.

There, in 2001, on a peaceful Tuesday morning in September, I noticed the contrails of several airplanes headed southwest toward Kennedy Airport suddenly make right angle turns. Later on TV, I would see why. Two planes had purposely crashed into the World Trade Center towers, scattering thousands of bodies and destroying in an instant two powerful symbols of the comfortable world I lived in.

That view has put in perspective for me what terrible threats await us due to Global Warming and the profligate way the human race, led by my own country, has urged it on. In the long view, the Earth may be considered no more than a finite dot in limitless space and time. But right here, and right now, socially and economically, its human inhabitants, in fearful competition with one another around the globe, face a far more daunting future than the convulsions I have lived through.

The world-wide Covid-19 epidemic puts in bold perspective that fourth convulsion.

Let it be the last in my long life.