Letter from New York


For a shameless party girl, January 2005 will not be remembered as my most happening month. Winter in NY is traumatic making it necessary to stay home, sleep and scrupulously check for the first signs of fur growth. Until miraculously I discovered my pineal gland, that pea sized area of the brain which controls circadian rhythms.

When exposed to sunlight via the retina, the pineal gland goes off, taking the host body with it on a contra-seasonal ride of optimism and cheer.
I want all New Yorkers to know about their pineal gland. It might just rouse them from their own political hibernation, thaw their despondency and rekindle the energy and hope they vested in Kerry.

After all, they did their bit, and more, to activate the campaign, to inspire new anti-Bush groups and to challenge turnout numbers all over the country. Kerry and the machine let them down. Weak on war; timid on economic restructuring. And then the curtain call – an obsequious acceptance of defeat. Stunned by their own inefficacy, what else could New Yorkers do but bury themselves under two feet of snow.
Predicting that the Saturday of the Iraqi election weekend will be hopping at Union Square, I headed there at high noon to replenish my pineal stocks and find out where the parties were. The anti-war movement was nowhere to be seen amongst the many buskers, traders and anti-fur campaigners.

So I accepted an invitation to join the fifty somethings at Kraft Bar on 19th for a joint divorce celebration that night – not quite the Don’s Party I had hoped for but there’d be a TV and the election would be bound to come up.
By nine that night the place was packed with familiar faces including some from the presidential campaign who had ploughed their way through the snow to share a zinfandel with the happy couple.

I joined a noisy group at the bar. They were feverishly exchanging opinions on how the art should have been split to maintain the integrity of both collections when I edged in with the suggestion that the election was merely a festival to validate the occupation. Nodding cheerlessly, they all agreed. But they still could not agree on the more substantive issue – should one split the Rauschenberg lithographs.
If the other side of despondency is enthusiasm then New Yorkers will turn. And they will run hard again with the right leader. But they’ll want it to be down a higher road than Kerry’s. As yet there have been no encouraging signs of polarization.

While Bush consolidates, Kerry accommodates. New Yorkers are waiting for a leadership which accepts that the American people are old enough to hear the truth – that its nakedly predatory foreign policy has created, and continues to create, justifiable grievances and unjustifiable hardship for many millions of people throughout the world. A small fraction of who become terrorists.
The first cohesive response since the 2004 election seems to be happening now at the campaign forums for Chair of the National Democratic Committee. Competing candidates are ironically singing in harmony. The Party has lost its participatory nature. There is an urgent need for a new infrastructure. Decentralize policy making. Recognize and accept independent organizations and build on that network. Locate people, identify groups, give them a voice and get all the same players on the same team.
Over to you, Kim.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.