What are New York values? Certain presidential candidates are bandying this phrase about like they know what they’re talking about. New York City raises great passion in the nation, and mostly from people who have never set foot in the place. Calling someone a “real New Yorker” in parts of the country is a coded anti-Semitic message. Since more hate crimes are committed against people of the Jewish religion than any other group nationwide, there’s still some of that going on.
Recently, though, something else is happening. In the current national psyche, the deep and proud connection between New York City and its Jewish population has faded somewhat, to be replaced by an image that’s a mixture of loudmouthed free-thinking liberals, forbidden sexual license, Gay Pride, strange looking people from strange lands speaking strange languages while wearing non-standard apparal, chaotic street scenes, bargain shopping, and Project Runway. That’s why, when Ted Cruz says Trump practices “New York Values”, he is talking directly to his base, who believe they understand what New York City signifies. The rest of the world is confused by this (for example, the BBC seems entirely flummoxed), but we here in NYC know what Ted’s trying to say.
And here’s what we’re trying to say to him:
Local politician Peter King: “Memo to Ted Cruz: New York values are the heroes of 9/11; the cops who fight terror; and the people you ask for campaign donations. Go back under a rock.”
Local columnist Mike Lupika: “It is the other party that has a donkey as its mascot. But Cruz is the one who’s a career jackass. City to him: Get lost.”
My polite friend from the Midwest: “Ted Cruz has a nerve trashing our city! I’m going to make a quilt about it.”
So, you can see we’re all on the same page here.
Bad-mouthing New York City is nothing new, by the way. John Adams, who apparently had a somewhat limited acquaintanceship, found there was “little good breeding” in New York City. He was also disconcerted by the fact that, even then, New Yorkers “talk very loud, very fast, and altogether. If they ask you a question, before you can utter three words of your answer, they will break upon you again, and talk away.” I’m guessing Johnny A. was a slow talker.
So, just to clear the air, I’m giving you the list of the top ten New York values. We’ve had these since Day One.
Gumption. If you’re the type who never puts a toe over the line, who waits for someone else to start clapping after the song is over, and who won’t try that new place unless someone else goes first, you won’t be happy in New York. New Yorkers expect you to take the initiative and figure some things out for yourself. Yes, sometimes thinking for yourself
means you break the rules. It means all eyes may be on you. It may mean you’ll get called “pushy” or “shrill”. I’ll bet Ted thinks everyone should just stand on the corner and wait for the walk sign even if the nearest car is 5 blocks away. Ted can take a hike.
Outspokenness. We New Yorkers say what we think. Don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point! If you’re singing on stage without the benefit of talent, we’ll tell you to get off the stage. To Ted Cruz, this is probably “rude”. His ilk prefer glossy euphemisms. People like him invented expressions such as “negative growth” when they mean to say “we’re losing money”.
Tolerance. There are over 300 religions practiced in the US and all of them are in New York. All 300 think they’re the “true” one, so get in line, Ted! New Yorkers don’t judge you by the church, temple, mosque, Sacred Grove or none-of-the-above that you attend.
Diversity. There 800 languages spoken in New York City . We don’t expect everyone to look or sound the same. Sorry, I thought that was supposed to be the promise of the rest of the country, too.
Good Food. Ted’s half-Cuban, so he can stop pretending that 7-11 serves anything edible. Here in New York, you can have dim sum in the morning, Cuban Sandwiches for lunch,
Tandoori Salmon for dinner, and top it off with a Kale Shake, if you like those things. If you think that living in a Food Desert is being a “real American”, I suggest you get your taste buds examined.
Efficiency. Ted probably calls this one “impatience”. He is so wrong. This is a fast city – you have to move! If you have to look at a map, that’s fine — but at least get out of traffic. If the subway isn’t here in 5 minutes, that’s a problem during rush hour, because too many people will pile up on the platforms. You have to keep things moving in New York. If you want to relax, you can do a meditation retreat in the Bronx . If you want to be bored and annoyed at the same time, you can watch a Ted Cruz rally.
Inquisitiveness. New Yorkers question everything. When the fortune teller says “your money is cursed! Give it to me and you’ll have good luck”, we roll our eyes and start asking questions. “How can you tell my money is cursed? If I gave you my money, wouldn’t you be
cursed too?” Ted probably calls that “lack of faith”, but it’s kept us from being the type of sucker that falls for every smooth-talking idiot that’s running for office.
Bravery. New Yorkers are brave. This is not a city for the faint of heart. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but most of us learn to strengthen our backbone. You’ve got to stand up for yourself here, and be ready for anything. Yes, you have to dodge rats, raving lunatic crackheads, thieves, blizzards, hurricanes, exploding manhole covers , and pamphleteers. And snakes. Dealing with all these natural and unnatural disasters makes us brave and resourceful. As for the snakes, Ted, we call Animal Control instead of endorsing them.
Loyalty. New Yorkers stand up for our city. We love New York the way Parisians love Paris. The way Californians love the ocean. The way Texans love shooting bullets at highway signage. If you want to talk trash about us, you might end up like that KKK rally in ’99. True story: eighteen Klansmen showed up. 6000 protesters showed up. Then, three of the “Klansmen” on stage revealed themselves to be protesters who proceeded to beat the crap out of the remaining Klansters, and a riot ensued. I’m not in favor of violence, but I do admire the spirit of standing up for your city. Don’t forget…when President Gerald Ford told New York to drop dead, he didn’t get re-elected.
Adventurous. New York, like life itself, is inherently dangerous and expensive. Every day
is an adventure. I’m not talking a video-game adventure, or hiring-a-Sherpa-to-schlepp-your- ass-up-Mount-Everest adventure. I’m talking about the adventure of seeing something and someone new each day, of finding a street you’ve never seen before even after twenty years, of hearing a musical instrument for the first in the subway. Maybe Ted likes playing it safe and predictable, but that’s not for me.
And here’s the quilt.