In response to the announced U.S. withdrawal from the climate agreement, three major American cities, and I suspect there will be more, the mayors of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles have declared their intention to abide by the accords. Their is some hope in that.
Of all of Trump’s bad impulses, his action on the one that takes the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord may have the most and the worst far-reaching consequences. The U.S. still sets a standard of leadership in the world, at least in the short-term. Besides the obvious fact that the U.S. is a major polluter and needs to get its house in order, the reasons for pulling out of the agreement do harm as well. This action betrays the goodwill of an international community attempting to deal with the calamity at our doorstep. This action is based on a craven political opportunism to a right-wing base who shape the mind-set of the President and his cowardly party.
Whatever you may think about the refugees stranded in Calais, one thing is blazingly clear. The powers that be have no idea what to do about it. Their actions if anything indicate a complete lack of sympathy for the plight of their fellow human beings, and worse, a total lack of imagination about what to do to remedy the situation for the sake of all concerned. I wrote earlier that this lies at the feet of the government of France, but it is now obvious that this strategy of bulldozing people into what? invisibility? is also okay with Britain. It is an attempt to erase people not to solve the conditions under which they are living. Far from their minds are the reasons, mainly due to Western intervention, that brought them here in the first place. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/03/france-razing-calais-jungle-camp
A friend sent me an article about two Vietnamese artists living in Berlin whose exhibition, Migration and Identity, is being hosted by the Goethe Institute in Hanoi, Vietnam. “In 2014 about 16.4 million people or 20 per cent of the German population had an immigrant background,” the article states. Vietnamese immigration to Germany has been going on for years and considered to be a success, a positive story among the many that aren’t. What can we learn from this success and why do we have to travel to Vietnam to hear this good news? http://vietnamnews.vn/life-style/283049/exhibit-explores-migration-identity.html
As the situation in Calais staggers into chaos and worse – a complete disregard for human rights and human life (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/29/french-authorities-begin-clearance-of-part-of-calais-jungle-camp), I have to ask myself where is the law? Where is the order? Instead of an orderly force of police protecting this camp, there are many reports of the police themselves attacking the refugees. What model of state behavior is this? It is no wonder that bands of militias or simply rogue outlaws feel free to act out their racist rage. And what can the residents of this camp do? It is a pitiful state of affairs. The clear and basic responsibility here is with the government of France.
This is not about cities. But it is about a human being who inhabited one. The news of Alan Rickman’s death was as shocking to me as if he were a close friend. I cannot explain that except to say that I loved his work. Even without knowing what a cosmically wonderful and generous friend and colleague the latest tributes say he was, the sensibility and passion of his art lifted me and made me feel that I knew something special about him, and as result, about myself. I now know that I am not alone in feeling that way. Megan Garber points out today in the Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/01/alan-rickman-even-better-as-a-romantic-lead/424140/) something that no one else has said about his special gift. She ends her post with this: “It was the romantic roles that merged two things that, all these years after the true Romantic era has passed us by, still drive so much culture: sense, and sensibility.” I would add to that list his humanity. Particularly in his romantic roles, and I would include here his portrayal of Louis XIV in “A Little Chaos”, that his sense, and sensibility were enhanced by his deep understanding of the human condition and it was transformative.
A big topic to explore. Vox gave an excellent breakdown of the refugee crisis in numbers in a December 2015 blog, http://www.vox.com/2015/12/30/10684672/in-2015-one-of-122-persons-worldwide-was-a-refugee. It ended by saying, “That’s the size of the challenge that the world faces today with displacement — and with no clear solution in sight.” Fine for a blog post but cities have to respond somehow and now. The latest incidents in Germany where as Angela Merkel said, “despicable criminal acts” occurred against women and were attributed to “young [men] of North African descent” shows how volatile the refugee situation can become. Who these people are and what their motives may have been remains blurry. But these incidents provide the kind of spark that can obliterate goodwill and have tragic consequences for the law abiding majority. Most commentary on the refugee crisis (and we don’t know if these men were refugees) has been written from a political and economic point of view considering the plight of the refugees and the crisis for both them and the communities which receive them. We would like to explore the crisis from a cultural point of view and think about what cities can do to mitigate the effects. More on that.
There are so many wonderful things about this short video it’s hard to know where to start. It would be easy to look at this portrait of skaters in Golden Gate Park as another freaky San Francisco “event” but that would miss the point of this tribute to dancing, skating, and the human spirit. Definitely watch: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/394472/bizarre-roller-skaters-san-francisco/
As I was stuffing my sheets into the machine at my local laundromat in Harlem today I noticed behind me an older African-American woman wearing a dashing amethyst colored sequin top under her warm jacket (it’s freezing in New York) tending to her clothes. I told her I thought the top was terrific and she said thanks that everyone in her family loved sequin tops. I returned to stuffing my sheets and then she said something to me which I didn’t quite get so I turned around and she was jabbing her finger at the Daily News pointing to today’s news-making photo of Caitlyn Jenner. I said yes I had seen it. She kept jabbing and said whatever makes people happy that’s what they should do. And that was that. We went our separate ways. In the laundromat. In Harlem, New York.
David Bacon writes a great photo essay about the New York subway, a love letter to the subway in fact which some may find hard to believe. Sometimes it takes an outsider to remind you. Have a look: http://portside.org/2015-05-21/streets-new-york-subway