Hmmm... wondering about how we're not hearing anything about Northern Iraq, the famed proto-democracy of Kurdistan? Maybe it's because the Turks are about to bring in the noise and funk those Kurds up good. That's what The Kurdistan Observer is reporting, though you'll note no mention of the 332 - 202 vote in favor of deploying Turkish troops "aboroad" on CNN. I'm sure they meant Cypruss or something, that's why it's not being mentioned.
Living at War
The city is a nervous organism these days. I'm not the type of New Yorker who actively dreads awful terrorist retaliation, but things are tense here. No one is smiling out on the streets. I have some peace stickers affixed to my backpack and I endure moments of paranoia when I meet the steely eyes of National Guardsmen, Police, or the State Troopers who were all over Grand Central. Does openly displaying anti-war sentiment make me more of a target for police harassment? I've been largely exempt from that up to now thanks to my white skin, but with hostilities underway I feel a chill creeping up my dissenting spine. I alternately fear and desire confrontation.
I catch myself listening to snatches of news, radio from a news-stand, tv at a deli. I really hope it's quick and painless -- no real heavy bombing yet, thank goodness -- but I also have a great fear that it will go too well, that the nation will swell with war fever and the leadership grow heady with hubris. I have a fear that war will become easy for America, and that we'll grow simple and violent in the 21st century. Some part of me elates when I hear of complecations. We're a very market-oriented culture, and right now violence seems cheap to most people. It's a troubling idea.
But back to the here and now. From what I can tell, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to Operation Atlas, NYC's beefed-up security regime. Pudgy Guardsmen rub elbows with country-faced State Police. The NYPD is ubiquitous, some plain clothes, plenty of rank and file, and even a few who stand rooted with flack jackets, helmets and M1 rifles. I suppose the idea is just overwhelming presence to discourage anyone from trying anything. Superior force. Shock and awe.
Many people seem to be in an avoidance/acceptance mode. My favorite coffee guys near Grand Central -- who like most coffee guys are of Middle Eastern Origin -- were tense and quick, none of the usual internationalist banter. I tried to get a sense of how they were faring, but they restricted their remarks to the weather and kept the line moving as quickly as possible. Less eye contact than usual, and again the dearth of smiles.
Still others remain blissfully ignorant. On the train ride back from Chappaqua, I was seated behind a pack of priviladged teens, who went about the teenage business of flirting, sneaking beers and singing annoying pop music with a frankly refreshing abandon. I vascilated between being glad that teenagers were still teenagers, and aghast at the cheap, mean and greedy side of the American heart they exposed to me.
Finally, on my way home in the damp, I swung through Times Square to see if there was still any protest action. Broadway was largely shut down, with crowds of NYPD (again many with the new helmet/flack jacket ensemble) and more vans and paddy waggons than I've seen in a while strewn all about for blocks and blocks. Somewhere in all the flashing lights and rain a number of protesters were making their way south on the sidewalks, chanting under umbrellas. It was pretty chaotic, knots of cop at some points vastly outnumbering the protesters, barracades and debris strewn about the streets. I synched up for a bit, but since I had no gear for the weather and was feeling pretty beat I headed home after a few good cheers. Broadway in the 20s and 30s is very canyon-like, twisting and narrow, old dirty buildings with lavish decorative moldings line either side of the street. Looking back and seeing no traffic but a mass of cop-lights, the chants of protest echoing down through the rain, it was somthing to see.
Though the short-term verfremdungseffekt will likely subside, I have a feeling life is only going to get weirder as time goes on.