Saturday, 18 April 2009

April in New York

April should be a perfect time for a vacation in New York (writes Liz Morrish) as spring blossoms line the Henry Hudson parkway, and a skyscraper-sized Easter Bunny parades down Fifth Avenue. Alas, winter was not ready to relax its hold just yet, just as conservatism has not entirely been swept away by Obama’s victory last November. For instance, there are the 750 anti-taxation tea parties that took place across the nation on Wednesday – the 15th April being the day all US citizens are required to file a tax return – never mind that no serious tax increases are being proposed. And guns – boy, was Obama right on that one ! Yes, all those back-woods folks still want to cling to their misinterpreted Second Amendment ‘right’ to keep and bear arms. What scares them most is that President Obama might wish to curtail the right of individuals to amass a private arsenal within their own homes. He might even interfere with proposed legislation in Texas to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. Wal-Mart is reporting a nationwide shortage of ammunition as the worried and insecure trawl the shelves for bullets to stockpile under the gun cabinet. Here in the UK, we need to remember that in the US there are more guns than there are people, and that gun ownership is highly symbolic of individualism, ‘freedom’ and apple pie. When I owned a small truck, it came equipped with a gun rack behind the driver’s seat - instantly adorned by my umbrella. However, since September 11th 2001, there have been 120,000 gun fatalities in the US (see Bob Herbert, NY Times April 14th 2009), and right-thinking (usually urban) people are wondering quite why grandma needs to own an AK 47. Think I’m joking ? Driving along listening to a radio phone-in, I was dumbfounded when a 69 year old woman called to complain that she couldn’t get any ammunition for her AK…..and if you let the criminals have guns and take them away from law-abiding folks, then that way lies hell, sodomy and abortion. Well, that was the gist of it.

And now that America finally has a President it can take out in public, who do they all laugh at anymore? Well, fortunately there is still a whole category of people to ridicule – women. Right now, our own Susan Boyle is worth a chortle.The subject of the horribly totalising appellation ‘the Octomom’ (mother of octuplets) takes the flak nightly from John Stewart on Comedy Central. Michelle Obama, meanwhile, seems above criticism, and even Hillary Clinton hasn’t yet been swiftboated all over again. Susan Boyle, though, plays into that familiar American grand narrative of ‘living your dreams’ in its most obnoxious form – the apparent instant transformation from obscurity to celebrity. It’s all the more affirming in this regard that Boyle is unemployed and, if the Guardian is correct (18/04/09), has learning difficulties. Americans do like to believe that we are all beneficiaries of some undiscovered talent, and that success comes quite by chance, by ‘believing in your dreams, not by practice, hard work and slow, incremental progress.

The climate for gay marriage appears to be thawing, though plenty of couples in California wonder what their status is now that their licences have been revoked twice. Iowa, a supposed ‘redneck’ state, has just voted to allow same-sex marriage and it joins Massachusetts and Connecticut, while the Vermont legislature has just overturned a gubernatorial veto against gay marriage. Nobody yet knows whether a marriage contracted in one of these states will be legal in, say, Texas or West Virginia. As always in the US, law will be made by the Supreme Court, not Congress.

Massachusetts styles itself as a kind of lesbian nirvana, boasting towns like Northampton with its several women’s colleges nearby. We stayed in Adams, MA close to Williams College (next blog will be about the opulence of private colleges in the US). Adams was home to the Topia Inn, a lesbian eco retreat. One intelligible manifestation of lesbian authenticity, though not my preference particularly, is obedience to ecological Puritanism, so we were in for it here. The website bade guests to leave their shoes at the door, use no fragrances (as if!) or non-organic toiletries. We were shown to a chilly Moroccan style room with attractive clay walls (hypo-allergenic), sustainable wood flooring, organic mattress and an over-active Jacuzzi complete with chromatherapy (a colored light). Breakfast consisted of organic granola and steamed ginger pears (interesting). It was extraordinarily restful, particularly the Jacuzzi, but none of this frugality reduces the price which is aimed at the higher end of the urban blazer-dyke set. So there’s rather an ethical contradiction in the whole set-up. Let’s minimize our pull on the earth’s resources, but we’ll only be available to the squanderous, city-living, SUV driving elite. Oh well, at least we offset our 100 miles of petro-carbon emissions with a bio-diesel powered Jacuzzi and pears baked in a clay oven by a hemp-shoe clad innkeeper.

1 comment:

  1. Please explain to me how the 2nd amendment is misinterpreted by by us backwoods folks. I am always amused by two things on the left:

    1. You can never make an argument with making a personal attack.

    2. You are strict/historical constructionists when it benefits you...which is so rare I LOL when I hear you argue it.