HALL-PALERM: Putting the City first

Annelisa Leinbach_OpinionNy_0927
Photo by Annelisa Leinbach.

It’s a fact so fundamental to my being that it’s become something of a running joke among my friends: I’m from New York City. The city is almost as large a part of who I am as my parents and friends are — and as a result, I feel enormously proud, and even more protective, of Mother Manhattan.

And in certain ways, I feel like it’s almost impossible not to love New York. It’s the city that never sleeps; its cobbled streets and towering skyline are the backdrop to movies and the birthplace of superstars. But it’s also too easy to choose to see the wrong side of New York. It’s the city that brought you Wall Street and its greed, the city where no one knows each other’s name and strangers will shove you to try to get to the subway on time. That image (while not altogether unfounded) is only exacerbated by men like Anthony Weiner and Alex Rodriguez. This summer, by putting themselves before the place they purport to represent, they did lasting damage to the reputation of my city.

Weiner and A-Rod have much in common. They’re both New Yorkers. They’re both shameless, they’re both arrogant and they both believe they’re more important than the field they’re meant to be serving.

Let’s take Anthony Weiner first: Everyone has seen far more of Weiner than they’d like to. I’m not going to waste time talking about the photos, the Twitter messages and the (unsuccessful) bid for election. Everyone knows the story, and it’s just too easy to criticize it. At every step of the way, Weiner was wrong. But the part I want to focus on, though, as Weiner’s most egregious wrongdoing, is that he monopolized media attention, taking it away from a pivotal mayoral primary for an American city in transition. Weiner should have remembered that the best way to serve New Yorkers is to let the city speak for itself.

If Anthony Weiner wanted to convey to the public that he had any shred of respect for the citizens of the city he wanted to govern, he would have stepped out of the race the second his genitalia garnered more attention than Bill Thompson’s (know who he is? He was a candidate, too) goal to end New York’s policy of closing low-performing public schools. After 12 years of Michael Bloomberg, the primary should have been the time for New Yorkers to take some time to coolly decide which of the candidates would best fight for the issues that will carry our city forward.

At Yankee Stadium, A-Rod suffers from a similar breed of hubris. He plays for the most reviled team in all of baseball. So when the steroids scandal broke this summer, the world was only too gleeful to see Alex Rodriguez, the smug slugger who had insisted for so long that his hands were clean, go down with the rest of them. Now, I have little love for A-Rod to begin with, but, much like with Anthony Weiner, the part where he really lost me was when he, after being served with a 211-game ban, he chose to put his own ego over the good of his entire team.

Had he quietly accepted his punishment, like many other players this season, maybe the rest of the summer could have been devoted to praising pitcher Mariano Rivera, whose last season with the Yankees has inspired packed stadiums across the country. But instead of bowing out with grace, and allowing Rivera to elevate New York’s reputation with his masterful pitching and notable humility, A-Rod chose to drag the whole city down with him, entering a very public and self-centered battle to overturn the sentence.

So if you want to judge A-Rod and Anthony Weiner (and believe me, I want to judge them right along with you), judge them not for representing all that is bad about New York. But rather, think of them as loud-mouthed, disproportionately represented anomalies that are obscuring the much more nuanced and beautiful New York.

At a place like Yale, nothing is worse than feeling like everyone has already formed their opinion of your history. To know me is to open yourself up to New York. To do that, you have to look past our unsavory spokesmen and see the promise of the city they’re hiding.

Victoria Hall-Palerm is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact her at victoria.hall-palerm@yale.edu.

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