Of course, the answer is a resounding “YES.” We New Yorkers, whether we happen to be B&R’s (born and raised) or recent arrivals, take comfort in inwardly knowing that, hell yes, we are smarter, hipper, kinder, more tolerant and, yes, less obese, damn it, than everyone else in America.
But our usual swagger has been hurt badly. New York City is in a state of mourning as I write this piece. Two of our brave police officers were assassinated in their squad cars by a lone gunman, an apparent insane person who traveled hundreds of miles away to carry out his mission of murder (Note: He had allegedly killed a woman first in Georgia before heading north).
We can certainly mourn the slain officers as we must. We can and will wring our hands and mutter darkly about the failure of our gun-control policies. Extremists can hastily lay part or all of the blame at the door of our embattled rookie mayor, Bill de Blasio, who has incurred the wrath of New York’s Finest.
But how will we react collectively to this unspeakable tragedy — and how will the NYPD act now?
We are living in the aftermath of the deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., where two black men died under controversial, racially charged circumstances. Predictably, outraged mourners regrettably reacted by expressing themselves in violent, antisocial ways.
New Yorkers now have an opportunity to put their actions where their mouths are and behave like responsible citizens. This is a very touchy time. The media are practically gleefully taking advantage of the situation to emphasize every bit of provocation. The worse people behave, the better it is for the media.
What can we do?
The Mayor must make peace with the rank and file and leadership of the NYPD. There cannot be bad blood between them. Both sides must look past any lingering bitterness and find common ground. Perhaps the senseless murders of two police officers will convince the two sides that this awful time is the right moment for collective healing.
New York citizens must conclude that peaceful, mass protests are the way to go here. We cannot damage property in wild looting. We cannot pick off bystanders. The police and the public must generate a mutual respect, though that surely won’t happen overnight.
The national and local media must act in a responsible way and not blow up events for their advantage. It isn’t worth it to generate better circulation or page views or TV ratings. I’m a journalist, so I well know that this one may be the hardest goal to accomplish. Journalists are smelling blood in the water and they intend to maximize the chaos. That’s disgusting.
We New Yorkers like to believe we are special — better. We want the nation to look to us for guidance. We want everyone to reassure us that we are better. We welcome criticism and needling, because we know so many people are jealous of us.
You know the old joke, that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who are Irish, and those who wish that they were. The same holds true with being a New Yorker. Everyone secretly wants to be one of us…or should.
Now let’s step up and show them all why.