Let’s Hear It for New York Values


Of course it was a gift. Ted Cruz, when he accused Donald J, Trump of embodying New York values, was acting as assignment editor for every newspaper or magazine writer, every blogger, compulsive letter writer and diarist who lives in or otherwise identifies with New York City.

The New York Daily News, a tabloid, managed to get three front page headlines out of the lines: “Texas Ted’s BS”, Slime Doesn’t Pay, Ted!” and “Drop Dead, Ted”. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post was more restrained but did publish an article headed “New Yorkers fire back at Ted Cruz: He’s “full of S-t” The Daily News and New York Examiner both had fun with Cruz’ fund raising email to New Yorkers: “I’m counting on you, New York. Can I ask you to make an urgent gift of at least $25, or if you can afford more, $100 or even $500?”

The Daily News and New Yorker magazine both tried to define New York Values. In this case, the Daily News’ columnist Mike Lupica may have done it best: “Here is what New York values are: New York values are a young guy, a paralegal, literally giving somebody he doesn’t know the shirt off his back on a subway because winter has finally come to the city and brought freezing temperatures with it. New York values are the New York taxi driver who traveled three boroughs across four days to find the guy who had left $1,400 in his cab, so he could return the money to him. You know what that really was? It was the real life of a city that Ted Cruz knows nothing about. He is simply another tourist here, one constantly on the make.”

Truth is, it’s difficult to tell what New York Values are because there are too many variations. The city is just too big. If New York City were a state it would be the 11th largest in the country, pushing Virginia down a notch. The 2013 Census Bureau estimate of the New York Metropolitan Area, which includes both the city and surrounding suburbs that feed into the New York City labor market, is about 20.1 million and runs into New Jersey, Connecticut and even parts of Pennsylvania.

N. R. Kleinfeld in the New York Times described the city: “New York exudes diversity. There are a lot of values kicking around. We’re talking about 8.5 million people of every conceivable background, people resettled from dozens of foreign countries who are thought to speak up to 800 different languages (Vlashki, Garifuna, Chamorro). Walk around the block and you can get an opinion from every vantage point on pretty much anything. Politics. Lapel width. Dim sum. The man in the moon.”

To an extent, New York values exist all over the United States, and help explain why cities generally vote for progressive candidates while less densely populated areas vote for the conservatives, for the politicians who preach a gospel of self reliance in the emails that ask for campaign donations. New York values are similar to Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and anyplace else where people have to learn to live in close proximity. They’re essentially the values learned in the Washington, D.C., Metro and the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit during rush hour. Generally it means giving up personal space and being accepting of heavy traffic and long lines for a cup of over-priced coffee.

It means that if you see a famous person on the street (or in the subway) you ignore them, but when there’s a blizzard or hurricane or other disaster, you try to help. It doesn’t always work, and all people have limits, which is why tightly packed cities need laws controlling guns, but the system works most of the time and people do find ways to live together.

For the record, Donald Trump does not embody New York values. He wants his name in huge letters on every building in the city, and can’t stand anonymity. He wants to be recognized and be the center of attention and stand in center stage. But if Ted Cruz thinks that New York values are somehow anathema to the rest of the nation, he’s way off base, because these are just the values of acceptance of differences and tolerance, and if they don’t always work the way they should, the values also include the aspiration to do better and be better, and that value is as American as it can get.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email sdu01@outlook.com.

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2016


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