Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Flavor of the Times

I recall quite well how Autumn felt last year; the patterns are always the same: a little warmer, a little colder, more rain or less, that sort of thing. This morning, taking a survey of the news, I tried to recall what it was like, Out There, a year ago. I could remember nothing. Wikipedia, however, keeps track of such things, and the flavor or last September rapidly returns.

A year ago—and yes, I’d quite forgotten—a YouTube thing called Innocence of Muslims, interpreted as insulting to Mohammed—caused, or was thought to have caused, terrorist attacks against the Western Infidel. For a while, until the handy tag become hopelessly useless, the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya, very big news, was explained by that YouTube. Rapidly the story was transformed into an attack on the Obama administration. Remember? And yes. There were two horrid fires at two garment factories in Karachi and Lahore. Tensions between China and Japan peaked over some obscure islands. One cardinal, in a posthumously published letter described the Catholic Church as 200 years behind the times. (How something can be ahead or behind the times is worth a posting on its own; make a note.)

To the fore in my mind this September is the replay of End of the World, read Fiscal Cliff, the bombing (not) of Syria, and the Pope suggesting that the Catholic Church is welcoming and its leaders should stop obsessing about little things. Aljazeera America began its broadcasts; its coverage pleases us. Yesterday we learned, for instance, that China is the only country where more women than men commit suicide—and at least one possible explanation is China’s long-maintained one-child policy (which is now rapidly eroding). Angela Merkel triumphs in Germany, and hand-wringing here because she means “austerity.” We like Angela. A kind of mild thaw—of which the Syrian initiative, read Putin’s, is one element, Iran’s changed foreign policy being another—ought to be marked here because, a year from now, it may well be forgotten again. What would we do without a Global Symbolic Enemy, shades of 1984. In politics the new mantra (may it be completely forgotten in September 2014) is that We must all bear our own Cruz.

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