Our budget process has started and we face a long and arduous task of creating a budget that maintains staff and programs, and is at the same time, fiscally responsible to our taxpayers. Each year when we prepare our budget there continues to be additional add-ons that add to the dilemma of creating a balanced budget. New and continued economic considerations that effect our budget planning include passed on costs such as the tax certiorari and restrictions placed by the state tax levy cap, increases in the employee retirement and the teacher retirement systems, and a host of other unfunded educational reforms and mandates. This year we had the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy estimated by our governor to be somewhere around $60 billion. It is only common sense to realize that this will have a profound effect on the New York State budget and possibly affect the general foundation state aid level of revenue.
The literary and social critic Edmund Wilson, one of the 20th century’s great men of letters, wrote the famous essay The Wound and the Bow about the relation between art and suffering. To make his point, Wilson employs a mythological character from a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles, Philoctetus, who on his way to the Trojan War is bit by a serpent. The odor that emanates from the wound is so noxious that he is exiled to the island of Lemnos to live out his remaining days as a pariah. After the war starts, the seer Cassandra prophesizes that without the bow of Heracles which was passed on to Philoctetus, the Trojan War would be lost.
Wilson modernizes the story by tying the wound to psychic trauma and the bow to inspiration whereby interior agony of the suffering artist is transmuted into monuments of artistic creativity. Wilson chooses several luminaries of the Western canon to illustrate this point but in re-reading the essay it strikes me that he omits the most self-evident subject of all.
“I’ve striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to understand them.” These musings were written by the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who was intensely interested in the praxeological art of mining the deepest depths of the human psyche. But who could make sense of the madness that occurred at Newtown Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary School, which was nestled comfortably in the heart of a sleepy little village in Connecticut. Whatever energumen preyed upon the tormented mind of young Adam Lanza, once the dam broke a cataract of venom extinguished the lives of 20 children and six adults before, turning the weapon upon himself.
Amid the ruins lay a shattered community, a grieving nation and endless unanswered questions. The spate of mass shootings in this country had been troubling enough, but now our children are targets. While I’ve long been an advocate of laws against assault type weapons (having written about it in these pages) I’m not prepared to say that stricter gun laws would have averted the carnage at Newtown. I do maintain, with the NRA, that armed guards at the Newtown Elementary School would have probably thwarted Adam Lanza’s evil designs. The media was in high dudgeon, as it usually is over the rhetorical expostulations of the NRA, but theirs was an emotional rather than an intellectual objection. All of America was overwrought with emotion over the greatest domestic tragedy since 9-11.
I received an email from Afghanistan in late October; actually from one of our local guys from New Hyde Park who is currently stationed there.
He serves in what is uniquely known as one of the Navy’s “Force Reintegration Cells.” It’s not what you might think, though. His unit actually distributes small grants and community funding for local projects, most of the time using the former insurgent fighters as laborers on the projects. Each leaves the fight “honorably” and each represents one less fighter or suicide bomber for the Taliban. As he notes in his message:
John Lennon once sang, “A very Merry Christmast/And a Happy New Year/Let’s hope it’s a good one” in his perennial Christmas standard “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” and given the turmoil that has defined 2012, this closing out of the current 12 month cycle couldn’t come at a better time. Hurricane Sandy, a contentious presidential election, the ever-present struggle with school budgets, the decamping of the Islander to Brooklyn or more recently, the depravity and horror surrounding the events in Newtown, CT—-for many this calendar year couldn’t end fast enough. But as is the case ever year, we all get to start out with a clean slate and the optimism that things will get better. So in that spirit, the Illustrated News wishes everyone a Healthy and Happy New Year.
– Dave Gil de Rubio
The standard thing to do in this case would be start with “my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, CT and their families,” only that would be dishonest because I don’t pray. That’s not an anti-religious statement; I respect the kind of intellectual puzzle that prayer can present, that simultaneous desire for both total humility and divine attention, but it’s never been something that I do personally.
All I can do is participate in the dialogue everyone says we should be having on gun control. However, I tire of each side making a cartoon villain out of the other, and it’s especially bad this time around; after such a particularly senseless attack, targeting the most innocent possible victims, proponents of stricter gun control practically can’t help viewing advocates of gun ownership as evil monsters with children’s blood on their hands, while gun advocates, feeling cornered, are doubling down even more on their dogma of individual freedom as the bedrock of the American spirit. The severity of the event that necessitated that we address this issue now makes it especially unlikely that anyone involved will have a cool enough head to make the right decisions, but there’s no choice.
This is the time of year when you should be able to put any hardships from the past few months aside, at least temporarily, and focus on the love and family closeness that should be associated with this time of the year. Unfortunately, right on the heels of Hurricane Sandy comes last week’s horrific school shooting. Details will undoubtedly continue to come out over the next few weeks, making everyone, particularly parents, just a little more nauseous and frightened. As the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn and while it’s hard to get to that place of peace and goodwill to your fellow man, it is exactly at times like this where faith turns out to be that one anchor we can cling to in order to get through horrible events like this. So grab your loved ones, hug ’em a little tighter than you normally would and try to find the spirit of the season that perseveres in the face of evil. Merry Christmas.
– Dave Gil de Rubio
In my last column, I mentioned It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m going to reference that movie one final time this holiday season. Even though the holiday season has not always brought me tidings of comfort and joy, I’d like to believe that there is still some magic to be found.
In the movie, Clarence shows George Bailey what the world would be like if George had never been born. It’s a much darker place. When George realizes how wonderful his life really was, he is magically transported back to that much better place. I’m kind of hoping that Clarence would be able to transport us to a happier world. I know that December is his busy season, but here’s hoping for that holiday magic again. Here’s what I’m hoping we’ll find in that place.
It was just a few short weeks ago that Superstorm Sandy was causing us nothing but panic and grief. It was one problem right after another making those few days feel like an eternity, but I think we can agree that it gave us new appreciation for simple pleasures like brewing a cup of coffee or taking a hot shower. As often happens in times of sacrifice, we grew in solidarity with our neighbors, pulling through with a sense that we were “all in this together.”
Then the lights came back on, the heat started working, gas stations came back online and we happily started to forget about Sandy. There were, of course, expensive and inconvenient repairs to be made, and donations to be sent, but for most of us on this part of the Island, life pretty much returned to “normal.”
This Saturday, Dec. 15, will mark the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. Traditionally, it commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Upon the retaking of the temple, there was only enough olive oil sufficient to burn for only one day in the temple’s newly crafted menorah until new oil was made available. Through a miracle, the oil continued to burn for eight days. As families gather to light candles, consume latkes and bask in the symbolism of national liberation and religious freedom associated with the holiday, Anton Community Newspapers wishes a Happy Hanukkah to all.
– Dave Gil de Rubio
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