About Town: September

About-Town-Margaret-WirtenbergSeptember is often a month filled with uncertainty. On many levels.

First, there is the weather and its vagaries. Such as hurricane season. Will Mother Nature do an about face and not show her teeth this year in the Northeast? Don’t count on it! Will trees fall, power lapse, or any new kind of disaster show its face?

And then there is the fact that performance of the financial markets in Septembers past has, by many historical measures, been the worst of any of the 12 months of the year.

September began this year with an early three-day weekend for Labor Day. Which meant that no sooner had students returned to school than they earned a vacation day. And September follows up with more interrupted school weeks due to religious holidays.

Developing good and regular study habits this month can be a problem.

I never did develop “study habits” in secondary school. I was just a curious and independent sort. When I got to college this resulted in a big shock, but after a rocky first semester I figured out how to properly juggle all of my interests and not get an embarrassing G.P.A.

My mantra was to get all of my reading, research, and homework done in time to go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. In college that meant before the 11 o’clock news. Especially during exam periods, in order to be at the top of my game facing the challenges that would come the next day.

So an emphasis on adaptation to changing scenarios is my recommendation for this month. That has worked for me, at least so far!


It is instructive to remember that the second noted definition of “war” in Merriam-Webster doesn’t have anything to do with killing people. “A state of hostility, conflict or antagonism” could just as easily be a description of letters to the editor that are not uncommonly seen around this time of year.

“A struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end (such as class warfare, a war against a disease)” is another way of putting it. The “war on poverty” that was begun shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy is another such example. And nobody has figured out a winning, long-lasting strategy for that war yet!

All of which contributes to troubling thoughts about the present situations in a number of countries, Syria in particular. I shudder to think about all the wars that killed people I knew that have occurred in my lifetime as an adult.

President Johnson famously said, “We seek no wider war” in Vietnam, and we all know how that worked out. More recent conflicts have been fought while American foreign policy has been colored both Republican red and Democrat blue.

Between Wikileaks and Edward Snowden we all know now that the government doesn’t tell the public exactly what it’s up to. And to some extent it shouldn’t. But how can we assure that the right balance is drawn between protecting us physically, and protecting our rights?

NOTE: “About Town” is also a television program. It appears on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on Cablevision Channel 88 (Public Access). Or see it at aboutweston.com. This week’s guest, Toni Boucher, state senator for the 26th District, puts into focus the relationship between budget problems and education.

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