Saturday, August 07, 2004

"Those people"

"I don't want to be here when those people are in town." --Nikki Lopez, 26, a real estate broker from TriBeCa. "Those people" are not gays, nor are they one of the many national or ethnic groups that hold large-scale events in the city, but are, in fact, Republicans. Funny how the reaction of many so-called progressive New Yorkers to those they disagree with politically so closely resembles that of white Upper East Siders who live in utter fear of the day Puerto Ricans claim 5th Avenue for their parade. But I digress...

The Times notes that "Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about five to one in the city," and that many New Yorkers don't look forward to the ratio changing, even temporarily, for the convention, and that some are fleeing the city to avoid possible confrontation with, err, those people.

"'The thought of Republicans storming Eighth and Ninth Aves - my walk to work - is enough to make me want to get as far out of town as possible,' Ms. Cosgrove, an editorial assistant at Time Out New York Kids, wrote in an e-mail message. She plans to spend the week on Martha's Vineyard. 'My blood started to boil last weekend when I saw a couple having brunch decked out in Bush-Cheney hats and pins, so I'm not sure how I would fare if I saw my neighborhood taken over by supporters.'"

Oh no, that would be awful, having to share a cafe, in her own neighborhood, with people who might have different political views. It's her walk to work, after all, not like it's public sidewalk or anything. Good thing she can escape for the week to Martha's Vineyard, otherwise that could've been devastating for her! I wonder if she's creating some sort of fresh-air-type fund for less fortunate, but equally anti-Republican, New Yorkers who also want to avoid the influx from the right.

Most disturbing is that "Some people in today's partisan times...even admit that they are leaving to avoid shouting matches with conservative visitors." It is perfectly reasonable--admirable, even--for liberal New Yorkers to stand up for what they believe in and make their opposition to the Republican party in general, or Bush in particular, known. Anything from voting for Kerry to wearing a Kerry button to protesting the convention would accomplish that. It is also completely understandable that some New Yorkers will choose the RNC as their vacation time, so as to avoid what will inevitably be a chaotic, if not dangerous, time in the city.

But are the two major parties soccer teams, and the people coming into the city hooligans for the away team? If the people who had the audacity to wear buttons for Bush-Cheney while eating brunch are any indication, shouting matches might not be necessary. If a New Yorker feels strongly about his or her political beliefs, so strongly that just letting people think what they want to think won't cut it, he or she should go up to people wearing the opposing side's buttons and talk, ask that person why he or she supports that candidate and offer a good reason to support the other.

Leaving the city out of disgust for Republicans (as opposed to out of the more legitimate fears of chaos or terrorism) isn't a political statement; it's passive, it's essentially taking a late-summer vacation, and it comes down to, more than anything else, xenophobia.