Sept. 11, 2001 – Time Capsule

Here’s our family’s story from 20 years ago today.  I sent this around to friends, colleagues, and relatives a few days after the event.  It was a good way for many of them to have a personal connection to the day and its aftermath.

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Dear Diana,

On September 10, 2001, you were six months old. The next day the world around you changed as it rarely ever does – with violence, stunning in its cruelty; with mind-numbing speed; and with a decisiveness almost unheard of in human history.

I bear witness to what happened because we were very close to the epicenter of this world-shattering earthquake.

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A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished

This nightmare that we’ve been experiencing for the past four years may finally be coming to its end.  Like many nightmares, it looks like it may culminate in a last, intensely frightening burst of violence.  And then we’ll wake up, bathed in sweat, but breathing freely again, feeling relieved that we’re not dead or mangled or crushed by the monsters that were pursuing us in the dreamscape.  This nightmare has not just been afflicting those of us who feel as if social justice and sane, reasoned public policy are the means and the ends to which society should attain.  Those among us who see ourselves as rightful inheritors of a legacy of cultural dominance over the “other,” be they of a different skin color or sexual orientation or religion, have also been plunged into a darker night of fear than that in which they had previously been trapped. Continue reading


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Unity

On May 10, 1940, German armed forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.  That evening, the chairman of the UK’s Labour Party, Harold Laski, wrote “We are at a turning point in the history of the world.”  Less than a week later, Winston Churchill, newly installed as Prime Minister, and Clement Attlee, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, announced an agreement to form a coalition government in order to prosecute the war.  Unity was the watchword.  David Low’s famous cartoon from that time vividly illustrates the fierce resolve of the leadership and, indeed, the public.

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Bull Hill

Bull Hill

(click on the photo here, then see the slide show)

We were out with friends early in November for a hike over Cold Spring, NY to Bull Hill.  Here is a photo from about fifty miles north of New York City.  You can see the towers of Manhattan and also Jersey City off to the west.  This was a great day to get out of the big city and to get a sense that there are mountains, and forests, and the mighty Hudson all still there beyond the concrete and steel, the millions churning and the power plants burning.  Sometimes you forget how magnificent our old planet really is.  John Muir’s message was to get out and see the magnificence and then get back home and work like the devil to protect it.  “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” Continue reading


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Climate Mobilization or Transformation?

There are a lot of ideas out there to save the world from our global environmental crisis.  Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Project Drawdown, and the Green New Deal among them.  A friend of mine pointed out a new essay in the New York Times this morning, “Climate Change Is Not World War.”  The writer, a professor of English, purports that “We are underestimating both the deep national trauma of World War II and our present challenge.”  Here’s my reaction. Continue reading


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The Nightmare Continues

You can find all sorts of explanations for the parlous state of our body politic.  The catastrophe of our last national election cycle here was preceded by the irrational Brexit vote (a misguided cry of anger and pain from English nationalists [but not Londoners]), has since been compounded in Europe by the onslaught of the far right in Germany in September and now this week in Austria.  I wrote a paper several years ago that took a long, hard look at the Contemporary American Right in which I posited that right wingers are, in a word, ill.  A distinguished student of conflict, Vamik Volkan, calls them regressed.  (Notice that I don’t dignify the inhabitants of these pathologies as “conservative” – it does them far too much justice.) Continue reading


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The New, Improved American Right

I was re-reading a paper I wrote ten years ago and found it all too relevant to what we’ve been experiencing for the past year in America culminating, for the moment, in the catastrophe that was Election Day here.  You may find it helps to explain a few things.

The epigraph for my master’s thesis on the “The Underlying Psychology of Violent Political Conflict” was from Erik Erikson:  “There is no time left in which to be as naïve historically as, in all past history, the historians have been psychologically.  (Childhood and Society, p. 403.)  Let’s all of us, activists, political scientists, everyday decent people, not be so naïve about what just happened and what’s going to happen all too soon.

Here is my paper from the Fall 2006 edition of the “Journal of Psychohistory.”  (Read the pdf here if that’s easier.) Continue reading


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Catastrophe

I’ve been offline for a long time, nearly a year, I know.  (Working on a new book and a few other impediments got in the way.)  But yesterday’s election makes me want to record my few thoughts here.

I think yesterday’s events are equivalent, probably worse, than those of September 11, 2001 or November 22, 1963 or December 7, 1941.  It looks and feels that violent.  I remember September 11th vividly.  We were right on top of it.  I also remember JFK’s assassination and the grim weekend that followed.  I wasn’t yet born when Pearl Harbor was attacked but I’ve been to the National Monument and got a sense of the scope of the disaster. Continue reading


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Sabbatical

It looks like it’s time to take a break.  I’ve been blogging on climate change, sustainability, etc. since March 5th, 2007 when I did my first post for the Foreign Policy Association, the last for them more than five years and 750+ posts later, and then nearly 140 here since June of 2012.  I’ll be back but it looks like I’m taking the summer off.


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The New Yorker Gets One Wrong

Franzen graphicWhat can you say about a publication, the venerable “New Yorker,” that has brought us writers the likes of Rachel Carson, Bill McKibben and Betsy Kolbert?  Easy:  They’ve got their environmental worldview very nicely in order.  But nobody’s perfect, so the editors responsible for accepting a recent essay, questionable (to be kind) in its logic and facts, by the novelist Jonathan Franzen, are to be forgiven.

There was, in fact, another reasonably bone-headed essay on the environmental movement from another distinguished writer, Nicholas Lemann, a couple of years ago that elicited responses from some worthy environmental leaders in whose company I found myself when the magazine printed my letter alongside theirs. Continue reading


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