June 16, 2005

 

I Heart My Town



Two nights ago, I joined 47,999 other New Yorkers to listen to members of the Met Opera perform Tosca in 90 degree heat. I'm guessing that many of the audience members, despite the presence of a few shooshers, were on Central Park's Great Lawn to be participants in a large, communal "event" involving food and wine rather than as opera lovers. I was there for a bit of both. Admittedly, I was never much of an opera fan: Before meeting my wife, I learned all I knew about the art form from The Marx Brothers, Bugs Bunny and the end credits of The Beatles' Help. Over the past 13 years, I've grown to like opera a lot. I haven't quite reached the love stage yet.

greatlawn

But I do love my town, which is what I said to my wife and dear friend L.J.T. as I settled in on the picnic blanket they had laid out. I had arrived late and was just starting to soak in the atmosphere (just as the humidity had soaked into me as I walked from the subway and through the park). I loved the fact that people who normally have some serious space issues had no problem hanging close together with thousands and thousands of strangers. And I loved how the strangers were from all walks of life (okay, I admit there was definitely a short supply of African-Americans but the crowd was still pretty diverse). After my unabashed gushing over NYC, my wife told me what had happened when a representative from Bank of America, one of the sponsors of the Met in the Parks series, introduced the evening's program. Allow me to paraphrase:
"Welcome to the opening night of the Met in the Parks concert series."

(tremendous applause)

"Featuring the greatest opera company in the world."

(tremendous applause)

"In the greatest park in the world."

(tremendous applause)

"In the greatest city in the world."

(tremendous applause)

"In the greatest country in the world."

(cue the crickets...)
Yet another reason to love my town. Now some of you (and you know who you are) might be thinking that this non-display of affection toward the U.S. of A. confirms your belief that New York is a bastion of commie-pinkos who hate their own country. Au contraire (perhaps using French is not the best way to convince you that we don't "hate" America). So, on the contrary: Most New Yorkers love America and we, rightly I believe, see New York City as representing the best of what America can be (open-minded, diverse, tolerant, liberal and fun). But not all of us love the direction our country is going in: You know, the bullying, torturing, war-mongering, global-warming denying, fundamentalist leaning, healthcare lacking, freedom curtailing direction.

For many of us, it's just kind of hard to cheer for the robotic "greatest blah, blah, blah in the blah, blah, blah" rhetoric these days. It is, of course, a phrase that has been drummed into all Americans for decades (briefly replaced by "Love it or leave it" during our last failed war). How many times, in the face of some atrocious act committed by a politician or company have you told yourself, "Yes, but we're still the greatest country in the world"? I know I have. But, over the years the phrase has become increasingly hollow for me. Seriously, could the greatest country in the world really have elected George W. Bush?

So, may I humbly suggest a replacement phrase until "we" somehow set things right? How 'bout: "America: Potentially The Greatest Country in the World." Sure it doesn't roll off the tongue but at least it's honest.


Comments:
love people, not places.
 
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