Wow! What a collection of leaders at last week’s United Nations conference in New York City. Admittedly, a congregation that has in the past held no interest for me, I was at least a little bit interested this time, given the guest list and the precarious times in which we live. Look, any time Iran’s supreme ruler Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is town, or “Mammy” as I like to call him, that’s a headliner. Couple that with our own articulate master, Barack Obama, and the presence of those two alone warrants a peek.
Of course, they’re not alone. This is a collection of “rulers” with no calibration benchmark. Delegates and representatives, from countries the size of Texas, or Providence, Rhode Island. Nonetheless, the collection of egos in that room must necessitate the pumping of helium into the chamber to keep them afloat. Our own President notwithstanding, one glance around the room and the air of import is palpable. Freud would have had a field day here.
But these are strange times. That crazy little President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, let loose with the expected monologue straight from The Twilight Zone. Denying the Holocaust occurred and the usual statements against Israel. I felt as though a circus tent should have been erected over the entire affair, as at times it more resembled the freak-show lane at a grade-C carnival then a serious meeting of world leaders. I waited in vain for the two-headed cow to be wheeled out. I listened in pain as our own President stated how he wouldn’t “apologize” for America’s history of standing up for the victim of human rights violations. Pained, that is, as I wondered where he was with these strong statements when citizens of Iran were being gunned down in the street following the outrageously corrupt election just months ago.
A few American and European delegates had the philosophical stamina to get up and leave, as did a few of Canada’s representatives. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu blasted Mammy for the remarks and asked of the crowd that remained, “where is your shame?” Where, indeed.
It would all be little more than silly were it not for the high-stakes in this game. Iran and North Korea are building, or have built, nuclear bombs. They are working, most likely feverishly, on a delivery system. Roll that thought around on your tongue for a few minutes before you swallow, and realize the implications of either of these countries acquiring the ability to vaporize America, or large sections of it. Then consider the emotional stability of the two guys whose tiny, in both cases, fingers will be on that button. There’s nothing funny about it. Only Netanyahu and a few others seemed to get it.
On the other hand, this is the land of Free Speech, and with a history of blood and treasure spent creating and preserving it, to prove it. Still, nothing says you have to listen, and I fully respect those who left in defiance of such horrific remarks. I, too, would have found myself hitting the pavement. To hear Ahmadinejad saying “we welcome warmly any hand extended to us” is literally enough to make my blood boil. As long as that hand isn’t attached to a Jew, I guess. Or an American, or Christian, or…you get the picture. Thus, the Fellini-circus atmosphere, bring in the clowns. Yes, there’ll be plenty of room for hand-shaking once Israel is “wiped off the map”…another quote from the little man from Iran.
Look, I’ll be 52 in November. When I was eighteen, like a lot of others, I spent a lot of time watching leaves fall in apple orchards, listening to Van Morrison, and staring at my palms for an inordinately long period of time. Then, like a lot of others, I got older and started earning money and raising a family. I noticed lots of money missing from my paycheck and a decaying morality that made me worry for my children, and I started paying attention. Now, I’m listening to Van Jones, as well as Van Morrison. Morrison makes me smile, Jones makes me wince. Morrison is not going to fundamentally change the country in which I live. Jones was engineering that change.
The little meeting in New York puts on full display, to those paying attention, the peril of our present and future. It makes worrying about health care seem a little silly, frankly. Without due attention paid to guys like “Mammy”, radioactive cities will be the next thing we’ll be worrying about, and you’ll only need health care if you break the third leg growing out of your torso.