by Pa Rock
This morning we rode a city bus across town for a tour of the United Nations, a sovereign entity completely within the city of New York and the nation of the United States. Our guide, a young lady from Madrid,Spain, showed us through the facility and provided information on many programs and initiatives of the United Nations. We saw displays on the amount of money that the world spends on arms compared to what is spent on life's necessities like food, shelter, and medicine - with the last three being minuscule compared to the first one! We also viewed large photos of children carrying automatic weapons, and pictorials dealing with our fragile environment, as well as disease, education, and nutrition.
We learned about the United Nations' goals for the new millennium. There are eight goals and they follow:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.
I listed the Millennium Goals for several reasons: First of all, they make sense and they are important. Ever since the Reagans lived in the White House, Americans have been focused on "What's in it for me?" If our grandchildren and their children are going to inherit a livable world, that attitude has to change and we have to start thinking and acting globally.
Second, the United Nations is the appropriate forum for addressing global issues. When the United States tries to go it alone in creating change, we have mucked it up almost beyond repair: witness Iraq and Afghanistan, Mexico and Central America, and the whole global warming issue. The world does not belong to us alone.
And while the goals are important, extremely important in my view, and the U.N. is the correct place from which to do the work, the United States is setting a piss poor example in helping to meet these challenges. There are currently 192 member nations in the U.N. Dues are assigned to each country based on its ability to pay. Those dues are what funds the organization and gives it the ability to work on and meet its lofty goals. Without that stream of income they couldn't even maintain their facilities or keep the lights on. Only thirty-one nations are paid up on their dues, and the United States, the richest nation on earth, is not one of them. That is shameful!
Hear this: Our guide discussed the website www.freerice.com which is a vocabulary building site that gives grains of rice to poor countries based on players' correct answers. I have hit that site before and enjoyed it, but I assumed the free rice thing was just some sort of scam. She assured us that it was legitimate and that the organization was helping to feed the world's poor. First, check out the site yourself, and then please take a few moments and promote this very good cause to your email list. It's free and it's fun - and it's educational! That's a three-fer!
We came back to the hotel at noon, and upon checking my email I found a mass communication from Valerie Jarrett, an advisor to the President-Elect, describing a new feature at www.change.gov in which citizens are encouraged to submit their suggestions and ideas to President Obama through The Citizen's Briefing Book. People may submit ideas, and rate or comment on the ideas of others. Those that do well in that process will be placed in a regular briefing book and given to the President. My first suggestion will be to do our share in funding the United Nations and to enthusiastically support its Millennium Goals. My second suggestion will be to implement a long range plan to provide passenger rail service to and through every city of over 50,000 in America. And then there's true universal healthcare, national service, wind power, and...
The rest of the day went like this: We went to the Museum of Natural History in the afternoon. The highlight of that jaunt was a viewing of a film, Cosmic Collision, overhead on a domed ceiling, that showed the creation of the Earth and the moon and explained graphically where we are headed. It was stunning, but my neck is still sore from all of that looking up! The dinosaur skeletons were also impressive, but the rest of the museum was a big bore. I can't get too excited about stuffed elephants and gazelles. It was like I had died and gone to Bass Pro! (And Ben Stiller wasn't even on duty!)
Carla and I left the museum and walked a couple of blocks to the Dakota, the old ornate apartment building where John Lennon was killed. I stepped past the signs on the sidewalk and was shooed away by a guard who said that the tenants did not want the shoe soles of commoners scuffing their sidewalk. He was, however, courteous enough to show me the spot on the pavement where Lennon died. Across the street from the Dakota in Central Park is Strawberry Fields and the Imagine Memorial set into a sidewalk. There was a peace sign made of flowers on the memorial. Carla said that Yoko Ono still lives on the top floor of the Dakota - but she missed her chance to see us!
This evening we saw the musical Wicked. The set was elaborate and the technical workings of the set were amazing. Some of the funnier bits of the play, though, were unplanned. In one scene a bed rolled off of its mark and required a stage hand to walk onto the set and put it back. The actress speaking at that moment looked up and ad-libbed, "Oh look. A man moving a bed." Then she waved at him and yelled, "Thank you." All without missing a beat! The audience enjoyed that off-the-cuff humor. In another scene, this one in a classroom, busy stagehands forgot to roll off the beds from the previous scene. The professor sat down with the students until the problem was corrected. Again, the cast and audience had fun with it.
The set of Wicked was much grander than that of Jersey Boys, and Wicked was far superior technically as well. But I didn't hear anyone tonight leaving the theatre humming or whistling one of the tunes from the show. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to even name one. Wicked strolled along nicely, while Jersey Boys rocked!