[I knew this highway down Avon mountain well, as we lived only a half mile south of Avon and I drove up or down it occasionally as a teen. Two of my classmates from the Kingswood School in West Hartford, Connecticut, more or less suicided on it by driving down it and smashing up at more than 100 mph.

The report in today’s NY Times brought back memories of that time and its culture. Hartford had been a wealthy city for quite some time as the center of the insurance industry which in turn had emerged with the slave ship trade that lasted well into the 19th century. Although I did not realize it at the time, the wealthy children of the old guard WASPs with whom I was attending day school were destined to have as perilous lives as the children of the poorest minorities — African Americans in Hartford were confined to a few blocks in the center of the city which I only discovered when we Boy Scouts delivered scrap paper to a warehouse there for the war effort (WW2).

I left the area pretty much at about the age of 15 when I went away to schools and began to spend my summers for the most part as an away camp counselor. But I heard occasional reports about my classmates. Their parents were both ahead of and behind the times — many divorces and occasional abuse of a step daughter by a prominent step father. We lived in the country — surrounded by wealthy WASP families supported by inherited wealth with too much time on their hands. One, a gentleman farmer (i.e. an employee couple ran his farm and did the household stuff), ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for governor but did not much else with his life.

On occasional visits home I would hear the latest sad story about my former classmates or meet an occasional one now often an adult living still with parents. One blew his brains out. They did not turn up in the Ivies — many did not make it to college at all, although they were certainly intelligent enough to so so. There was something about that inherited wealth that stifled both effort and all the positive things that go with getting oneself out there in the world and making a contribution to it. Many were addicted to drugs — I recall one little kid being sent out to our school bus mid winter in deep snow wearing short pants and a t-shirt by an addicted mother. Years later I encountered him dining with his parents at the local country club — then in his late twenties or so and looking as frightened as I remembered him as a child.

I mention all of this because I wonder what will happen down the line to the children of the greedy CEOs now making out like bandits — or American society at large under the influence (for some) of excessive prosperity. I don’t sense the community sharing (even before the civil rights era) that existed during WW2 and for a time thereafter. Notice the symptoms. In Iraq the children of THEM are risking and giving their lives. Those of our prosperous ones are not! We shall see Bush veto a bill for medical coverage for children this next week. Ours is manifestly a divided (some might say broken) nation.

So where do we go from here? Ed Kent]


On a Mountain Road in Connecticut, Hazards and Headaches
Since 1995, 14 people have died in accidents on the stretch of Route 44 that rolls west from Hartford into the town of Avon.


“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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