Torrential rains, road construction and Sunday ‘coming home from the Catskills’ traffic conspired four weeks ago to jam the New York State Thruway from 50 kilometres south of Albany, New York all the way into Manhattan. The driver of the Adirondack Trailways bus I was on called it the worst traffic he had ever seen. My planned afternoon in the Big Apple evaporated as we watched the string of red tail lights from the long line of cars and trucks ahead repeatedly ripple up towards us.
Eventually the bus made into New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal building which sprawls over two whole city blocks between 40th and 42nd streets. Left with only a little over an hour before my next bus I managed a 13-block walk first east on 42nd Street then around Bryant Park east again on 40th Street passing the vacant lot now marking the site of the former building where I had worked for awhile four decades ago with the Student Coalition for Development then up Fifth Avenue in front of the now enclosed famous steps of the New York Public Library then back along 42nd to Time Square.
Though my time was quickly running out its lights lured me up and around the square which is actually a triangle formed by Broadway cutting across Seventh Avenue on their mutual way south to 42nd Street.
A brief deluge forced people off the street but Times Square instantaneously filled up again with crowds as soon as the rain stopped. The failed car bomb attempt back in May which forced the hurried evacuation of the Square has left an imprint. The police presence was impressive. Nearly every second store front seemed to have a couple of New York’s finest stationed watching the Sunday evening strollers and other police walk by.
Back in the bowels of the Port Authority I found my way to my Cleveland-bound overnight bus. An orderly line snaked back and forth within the prescribed posts and ropes. Every bus depot, though, seems to have its own lineup culture dictated in part by its design features. Two days later in the Cleveland bus station one large open area with clearly marked destinations above corresponding doorways out onto the loading platforms awaited me. Fourteen hours later in Chicago after a leisurely meal with friends, however, I confronted a crowded, chaotic jumble where lines for buses wind through seating areas around posts and even bumping into lines forming on the opposite side of the terminal. No matter what though, everybody usually gets where they want to go and so did I. Lines and waiting do inevitably come to an end.
The pursuit of resolutions to contentious issues like the fate of the Peel River Watershed or the registration of long guns at times may seem as chaotic as my lineup in Chicago. Ideological divides, ethnic and religious prejudices or corporate or class interests can be among the factors impeding our progress. The lack of effective, inclusive decision-making mechanisms at a local, national and global can slow things down as well. But eventually over the long haul humanity, though, in the face of enormous obstacles seems to work out most of the major issues confronting it and gets where it must go.
Universally accepted human rights, an equitable distribution of the world’s resources, the building of an environmentally sustainable global economy all have to yet be achieved. World leaders will gather next week in New York to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals which aim to reduce global poverty by half by 2015. Maybe we should drop a note this week to the prime minister (http://pm.gc.ca/eng/contact.asp ) urging him to take a strong stand on our behalf to make poverty history. Hopefully Canada is in the right line-up on this issue.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.