Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mayor Bombast Struts Bridge, Flings Feces


I watched about five minutes of Mayor Bloomberg's press conference this afternoon before I began to get faintly nauseous. He openly insulted the union, its leaders and its members; and added a few thinly veiled threats at leaders of other unions who had spoken in support of the TWU. He judged the 35,000 TWU members to be common thugs, and urged the courts to punish them to the full extent of the law.

So the NYC crime rate has gone up in one day: we have about 35,000 more criminals in town than we had yesterday. Now what would you predict might be the effect of the Mayor's vicious language this afternoon? Would those 35,000 criminals hear him, look at one another and say, "you know, he's right, we're a bunch of shameful, malicious crooks who are breaking the laws that our soldiers in Iraq are fighting and dying to defend—let's go back to work now"? (I'm not making this up—Bloomberg actually dared to make this connection: Marines in Fallujah are dying to protect and defend the Taylor Law—it would be hilarious if the mass media weren't lapping it up like warm milk).

Oh, and those journalists: what a crowd. A bunch of kittens, purring in the Mayor's hands. I heard more Jeff Gannon questions in those five minutes than I'd heard in the past six months of White House press briefings. Each of these lapdogs competed with the others in offering Bloomberg a further opportunity to sling shit at the unions and at unionism in general.

Am I alone in thinking that hurling insults at people is not the mark of leadership? Am I somehow aberrant to expect of a leader a more constructive dialog, a less divisive tone, a more active role in negotiations than that of a churlish grandstander in a pinstriped suit? What Bloomberg displayed for us today was exactly the same kind of behavior that we've seen before from the seats at Yankee Stadium whenever Pedro Martinez steps out of the opposition dugout.

If this is the sort of behavior that we expect of those we vote into office, then perhaps we shouldn't be surprised to see bodybags sneaked into this country like contraband; perhaps we shouldn't be shocked that Catholic workers' meetings are being spied upon by the CIA and FBI; perhaps we should just accept war, conflict, and international estrangement as our collective karma; perhaps we should resign ourselves to the reality that our once-independent and vigorous national economy is now the property of the Chinese government.

Mayor Bloomberg has chosen the path of hatred and opposition in dealing with a situation that calls for a leader who can shut the doors, turn off the microphones, and firmly lead two competing parties toward a reasonable consensus. But this morning, I saw clear evidence that the Mayor and his underlings have chosen to spread their hatred as far and wide as possible. Here's what happened: I had been offered a seat in a car pool, but I also had an opportunity to go to the Brooklyn Army Terminal to take the ferry boat to Manhattan. I opted for the latter, thinking it would be a contribution toward easing the congestion on the higways, and that it was actually a more environmentally-conscious choice. But when I got to the Terminal, I saw a mob of over a thousand people milling about in a snakelike, barely organized line, in 6-degree windchill, waiting for one boat that wouldn't hold a tenth part of their number. Police walking the line announced to those arriving that the wait would be around two hours, probably more; one of them joked, "the Mayor is also taking a poll to see how you folks all feel about the TWU this morning."

I watched this scene, incredulous, for a while; and then left. What I had seen was transparent enough: this was a roughly choreographed setup, intended to stir up anger and hatred against the union. And guess what—it worked. Maybe not on me, but on many residents of this city; and certainly on the mass media, who are competing to include as many anti-union man-on-the-street one-liners in their reporting as possible.

It is the consciousness, the attitudes we choose that determine our actions; and as long as we choose hatred, malignity, and the demonization of our fellows, our actions will be arrogant, malevolent, and destructive; our relationships polarized and divisive. The Mayor of a great city has chosen the way of hatred—in his attitude, his language, and his government's actions. If this is the leadership we want, then he is the leader we deserve.

1 comment:

Miriam Valentin said...

Tomorrow may be worse; by the end of the week there will be an avalanche of silently angry people on the streets, most of which will inevitably be cursing the Union. This may be the beginning of the end of unions everywhere, of the few that we have left. See, people relate best to that which touches them at a very personal level. What they will remember is that the Union screwed up their commute and shopping plans at Christmas time none the less – that hurts. Most won’t even ask why the Union went to strike, let alone ponder the fact that Unions are the voices of the least powerful against the most powerful. If the Union fails the Big Corporations, as will the Government and other large institutions with the powers to design our future, will for generations to come be able to do whatever they want, and worse than they have done so far. Now, if people understood this much reality the 7 plus million souls who are so inconvenienced today by this historical strike would be waving their pro-union flags on their way to work and telling Bloomberg where to properly go: Mr. Bloomberg, you are not a wise Leader of the People. But that’s too much of a good thing to hope for at the end of 2005. Considering that we live in a country where the President’s approval rate goes up precisely at the time when it becomes public knowledge that they are spying on us (surprise?), and considering that it took a stroke for Sharon’s approval rate to go up (coincidence?), what should we expect -- blessings? The people’s priorities are upside down, along with the rest of the world. And of course the Media, who are supposed to be the Watchdogs of the people, roll over and lick the Master’s Iron Boot. Sad but true. It will take many more decades of seemingly unending whacks on the head and kicks on our collective rear end before “we the people” finally wake up, come together as the greatest lobbying group on earth, put a leash on the Money Gods, and free ourselves. What we need is something along the lines of a global silent strike at the root of it all. Then maybe tomorrow will be better.