23 December 2014
The mayor who stole Festivus
In New York City, where tempers are still seething following last Saturday's assassination of two policemen by a career-criminal crackpot, Mayor DeBlasio has called for a cooling-off period. Feeling pressure from the police, and probably thinking it the diplomatic thing to do anyway, the mayor has urged activists to suspend protests over the deaths of Eric Garner and others until after funeral services for the murdered policemen. Because the cop-killer from Baltimore consciously resolved to avenge Garner as part of his apparent plan to exit in a blaze of glory -- the plan presumably included shooting his ex-girlfriend -- the mayor now thinks it wise to mute temporarily protests widely interpreted as anti-police and inflammatory, and apparently concedes the point that such protests are insensitive during a time of mourning for cops. But the mayor made his call yesterday without reckoning with the fact that today, December 23, is Festivus, the day set aside by Jerry Seinfeld and his TV writers for the airing of grievances. Senator Paul of Kentucky is having a blast on Twitter today to commemorate the occasion, but why should he have all the fun, especially when his grievances are almost literally nothing compared to those felt on all sides in New York? In fact, a handful of activists have spurned the mayor's appeal, as Fox News was quick to publicize, and as many protesters have argued, the inexcusable crime against the two policemen does not negate the perceived offenses against Garner by another policeman and a grand jury who found no cause for prosecution in the original, fatal offense. Meanwhile, I doubt we'll see a moratorium on "blood on their hands" commentary about Saturday's killings from the right-wing media. As I understand it, Festivus is an occasion not only for airing grievances but for feats of strength. The best way to honor the day in the city where, presumably, it was born may be to dedicate this Festivus to tests of strength. Who has the greater, the more credible grievances? Which side can out-grief the other? Ideally it would be the sort of test of strength that can be decided peacefully, by the judgment of the people as a whole. Only then can any case be made for one grievance cancelling out the other. Until then, it's still a free country, whether cops like it or not -- and it's still a free country whether black activists like what others say or not. This is a time for candor, not polite sensitivity -- and not just today, either.