Monday, November 5, 2012

NYC Marathon: Bloomberg's Finish(ed) Line

Please. Stop the diplomacy!  The NYC Marathon might have finally been rightly cancelled but Michael Bloomberg deserves no “did the right thing” back pat -- like a reward you’d give a cab driver who found something valuable left in his cab and turned it in.   No, this is more like the hostage taker who “did the right thing” by letting the hostage go only because the villagers were beating him into a bloody mess.
The New York Post was the first to touch the raw nerve that many were already feeling about the party atmosphere of the race. Reporting on the misplaced resources exposed it further. Good for them! 
But don’t, in the follow-up editorial on its cancellation, calm it down to a conciliatory, “Bloomberg did the right thing yesterday.”   Or write, “But he had no choice,” after he said, “We would not want a black cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we've decided to cancel it.” 
There is no redemption for Bloomberg here.  There is righteousness in holding a grudge.  While it was the right thing to do I have little doubt it was for the wrong reasons.  Bloomberg didn’t try to do what’s best for the city; he did what’s best for him – for his legacy.  (And standing there without race sponsors is just one more way to look bad.)  Point the direction of hostility at who he will but anyone who’s had a finger on the pulse of this man all these years surely could agree that “the race” and “its participants” were mere stand-ins in that statement.  Rather, he didn’t want the black cloud to hang over him.
To offer “But he had no choice” is to credit him with eventually responding to the outcry of needs from the public when instead he was caring for his own needs.  His motivation was not burning shame.  It was cold calculation.
Maybe those who don't get the swell of outrage over the original choice to proceed with the marathon either don't live in the severely affected areas or very close by, or have friends/family who do, or who feel connected just because they used to live there. Or simply aren’t born and bred New Yorkers who played stickball and punchball in the streets and bled blacktop.  Be close to it in that way -- not just hearing about it on the news or as a transplant -- and Bloomberg's decision was a grotesque one. 
The hard hit victims of Hurricane Sandy are still –- post marathon Sunday -- dealing with its misery in too many forms to list but beginning with the loss of family and friends, entire homes and even whole neighborhoods and ending with no electricity, heat, hot water, food and gas. It’s an insult to portray the storm anywhere near as behind us.  No one would suggest that this overshadows 9/11 but in this case it’s like the planes are still flying into the buildings a week later and beyond.   
In a situation like this you don't act like a host of an event that has gala written all over it. It screams "yeah, yeah, whatever." 
A lot of one’s opinion on this controversy might ride on the impression Bloomberg has already left on them.
In the eyes of many, this interloper from Boston, who immediately perched himself at the top of an ivory tower, has treated NYC as a product. Something to sell. All about people from the outside like him. As if no one lives here. That the occupants are nothing but window dressing for all to come see like animals in their habitat at the zoo while they sight-see, shop, eat out and go to shows. This race is just one more tour Bloomberg has put on his travel brochure.
Bloomberg has no “New York” – as a very part of one’s being – running through his veins or in his heart.  That is the yardstick by which many measure him in decisions like this.  The New York City “yo!” stops with him. The mayor is supposed to project the very essence of the city on all’s behalf.
The point of blame rests at his self-centered feet, not the individual runners (done wrong too with short notice) nor really even the organization behind it.  Bloomberg is supposed to inherently know, as the representative of the local citizenry, how something like this would make them feel and relay it as policy.  Listen to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talk  about the devastation in his state and it might as well be a resident of Seaside Heights speaking.  He’s totally connected.  He’s a New Jersyan. Listen to Bloomberg and he’s totally detached. He’s not a New Yorker. By Wednesday the latest he simply should have known that holding this race felt wrong, was wrong, and cancelled.
More proof that he’s so full of only himself is that he’d trade the safety and welfare of those crying out for more help for his own agenda. His ideology on gun control has gotten so twisted that he wanted to wave off the National Guard (who arrived anyway), explaining, “The NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns.” 
His war on guns extends to "other" law enforcement officers?!? They’re our reserve military for cripes sake! Better that more stores/homes be at risk for looting or fewer hands available to aid in all facets of disaster relief than give the overstretched NYPD a hand (and residents an extra layer of comfort)? Does he even think of the NYPD in terms of humans who might like a chance to go home for a longer while to tend to their own families and personal losses and that more bodies – found in the Guard – will bring them that relief?  Does he even consider how many police officers lost their own cars to the sea while both on and off duty but make sure to get to work come… literally… hell or high water?  How does Bloomberg thank them?  By retreating into his fortress of extremism where insanity resides and everyone else is locked out.
And then there's the story about Bloomberg being the one to ring the bell for the reopening of the Stock Exchange. Sure, we all need that to be up and running but to choose that location (in terms of degree of devastation) as a symbolic gesture of might over the storm is the most elitist and cowardly display.  How about ringing a bell at a church in Rockaway, Breezy Point, Gerritsen Beach, Bergen Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Sea Gate or Staten Island where people with New York in their heart never worried about sliding into the manhole cover that was second base?
With the hearing on the proposal to ban big sodas still days away, Bloomberg said then, “Nobody’s going to stop this.”  Never mind that the entire point of a holding a hearing is to give the public a chance to sway the outcome.  Happen, it did, as we all knew it would because if that’s what Bloomberg wants then that’s what Bloomberg gets.  The smoking, trans fat and soda bans and his third term are all testaments to that. Of Mike, By Mike, For Mike.  Remember, we’re just inhabitants in the Bloombergastan Zoo.  So his relenting (for whatever the reason) something he wanted makes Davids of those responsible – biblical in its proportion for doing what no one could ever do before.  Relish in it.
While the very concept of the living and breathing NYC is below his comprehension, the concept of our government is over his head.  He has said on more than one occasion, when defending his measures that trample on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that “If the role of government isn’t [to ban these things for your own good] then I don’t know what is.” 
This NYC Marathon episode seals it. That’s right, you don’t.