I was in New York and Boston for a few days last week, to take care of some personal work, and took the opportunity to reconnect with friends in New York and family in Boston. I was once again amazed by the warmth of people and the ease with which they made time to meet, more often than not insisting on it. It reminded me why we so enjoyed living in Chicago for five years. Of all the cities that we have lived in across the globe Chicago was the only one where we were welcomed into our new house by neighbors carrying a plate of cookies, where Jewish friends invited us to a Seder dinner, where our neighbor Carol invited us to her annual Oscar party and where the same neighbors organized a send off when we left for Bombay.
Shopkeepers and people in the hospitality industry in the U.S. have politenesses built into their language, thanking you for coming, for shopping and for patronizing their establishment.
In times of crisis, domestically or internationally, Americans reach out to each other and to other nations without hesitation, offering food, shelter, money and even military assistance when necessary.
Kindnesses large and small form an integral part of daily life in the U.S. It is amazing therefore, to witness up close the gridlock, deadlock and vitriol that has come to characterize political life in the U.S., bringing the country to the brink of economic disaster several times in a row. Even in India, where political opposition is conducted loudly and brazenly, there is at times of crisis, for example when the Indian Rupee almost touched 70 to the dollar, a very quick coming together of the top echelons of society. Members of Government, leaders of the Opposition, the Head of the Reserve Bank and key industrialists convene formally or informally to decide quickly on a course of action to correct the direction the country is headed in. Within days key legislation is passed to re - instill confidence in investors, following which the 'game' of politics resumes as before, but with immediate crisis averted.
Why is this kind of coming together increasingly so difficult in the U.S., where on a daily basis people are helpful and kind to each other? Globally people look to the U.S. to provide economic leadership as never before. With Europe in the doldrums and even the BRICS economies such as China, India and Brazil slowing down, business people look to investment from and consumption in the U.S. to provide direction.
By all means get your economic house in order, pair down debt while investing in health care, education and alternative energy, but please find a way to do so that is more in line with who you are, and always have been, as a people.
Rewind, be kind.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.