Divided We Stand*
How many legs
does a dog
have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg
doesn't make it a leg.
As a pro-America pep rally was concluding last week at Amherst College in Amherst, MA, a small group came forward and set fire to two American flags. A third Old Glory was then stood upon, while the protesters shouted “This flag doesn’t represent me; this flag doesn’t represent us.” The group of approximately ten protesters are thought to be students from various area colleges, but no one is sure which ones, if indeed they’re students at all. What we are sure of is America’s heritage of diversity. As a people, we’re about as non-homogenous as could be. Yet, for better or worse, divided we stand as Americans. The price of freedom, true freedom, is often very costly.
Last Saturday, at The Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was booed while introducing a film by Jerry Seinfeld. Apparently a vocal majority of the six thousand police, firemen, and EMS workers, in attendence because of complimentary tickets, believed it was neccesary to embarrass an elected official at a charity event to raise money for the families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Ex-Beatle, headliner, and benefit organizer, Paul McCartney, gave out the six thousand free tickets in memory of his dad, a fireman in Liverpool during WWII. The whole world, via cable television and the Internet, watched as New York City’s finest announced things were back to normal–it seems New Yorkers are assholes again. [Note: whether NYC's finest are "heroes" or "assholes," both or neither, backround and contact info may be had by clicking on FDNY, EMS, or NYPD.]
Our elected officials are usually representative of their constituency, in that they often reflect the views of the voters, be they hawks or doves, conservatives or liberals, etc. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution authorizing the use of military force in dealing with terrorists. Many disagree with her decision, but last week over three thousand supporters, among them actor Danny Glover and author Alice Walker, joined together for a rally in her honor. Okay, so diversity in California is nothing new. Our freedom reflects our right to be wrong.
New Yorkers, for all their renowned rudeness, are facing a challenge with Massachusetts. The flag-burning described above was probably a feeble cry for attention from a group of confused anarchists, however the Bay State is particularly sensitive to such things, as it was from Boston’s Logan International Airport that the planes which flew into the World Trade Center towers departed from. That sensitivity was tested last Sunday when a man decided to walk around Logan wearing a cowboy hat and carrying samurai swords. He didn’t really do anything, like try and get past security or openly threaten anyone, yet his presence upset many travelers and he was arrested.
Raymond Morrison, a 23 year old fellow with a tiny earstud and hair cropped closer than a Marine recruit, was charged with disorderly conduct and carrying dangerous weapons. The judge released him on $10,000 bail and ordered him to stay away from Logan, except for travel purposes. He didn’t wear the cowboy hat when he appeared in court, a decision which undoubtedly helped his case. Some would regard wearing a cowboy hat in Massachusetts to be a crime worthy of prosecution. Different hats for different folks.
Boston has long played Gotham to New York City’s Metropolis. As my Sox are White, not Red, the ongoing rivalry between the Yankees and the BoSox, said to involve some dead guy who didn't have a candy-bar named after him, is meaningless to somebody from Chicago. Then again, the City of Big Shoulders doesn’t have any superheroes associated with it. Just heroes... Like every other American city, Chicago has teachers, garbage-men, single parents, morticians, factory workers, somebodies and nobodies, those insecure human beings that bravely face every new day scared they won’t live to see another, as well as a host of other entrees from the American kitchen. We seem to be using “Heroes” a lot recently. And most use it to describe NYC’s police, fire, and EMS personnel. It’s kind of like the common mistake that all gays are happy; one has to wonder if all heroes are actually heroic, or just doing their job. Use a term too often and you diminish its effectiveness.
Throwing in her two cents, a Boston Herald columnist, Margery Eagan, commented on NYC’s finest booing Sen. Clinton, writing, “...we can keep silent no more.” Eagan, like the rag she works for, is in the business of peddling heated opinion. Like other major cities with more than a single newspaper, there's a marked difference in style and content between newspapers. In Boston if one wishes to read a researched news feature, one reads the Boston Globe. If one only has the time for drive-by truth, innueddo, and slanderous gossip, or needs to know the specifics of alleged homosexual relationships between 'America’s Most Wanted', then the Boston Herald would be the newspaper of preference. Well, those reasons and they have better sports coverage than the Boston Globe. Concluding her column, Eagan wrote:
“Of course, we could cut Hillary some slack here. We could point out, for example, that many of the Heroes of New York overimbibed Saturday. We could. But we won’t.
For if there’s one bright side to our current horror, it’s that we’re drawn to what’s better among us, what’s higher, grander, truer and soul-searching – not what’s prunish, greedy, grasping, cold-blooded, calculated and completely full of it. Like her.”
Eagan is paid to express opinions. New York City’s finest are paid to put on uniforms and protect people they don’t know. Everyone has an opinion, though only some get paid for it, but not everyone wears a uniform. Seeing those “heroes” in uniform boo a government official was sad. It was disrespectful. It was an evening of love and New York City’s finest decided it was time to return to rudeness. Assholes. We’re at war and people are dying. The Concert for New York City was a global event. I demand a global apology from the so-called “heroes” who put on uniforms and thought their petty opinions were more important than respect for a government official. Your selfishness has cost us all. Apologize. And the next time, when you feel a need to mouth off, leave your uniforms at home.
Just because some call them “heroes,” doesn’t make them heroes. Honest Abe was right about the number of legs on a dog. Often a job well done is its own reward. We're different in ways profound and mundane, meaningful and inconsequential, and some are more different than others. Divided we stand, and if we’re ever truly united, we’ll never fall.
For a past column on Hillary and NYC, click here.
Thinking about NYC’s everyday