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New York Values

January 17, 2016

New York City skyline before 9/11, Photo by Dhaval Jani, Source (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

The term “New York values” was tossed out like a hand grenade at this week’s Republican Party debate. The city will no doubt survive the insult. It has survived worse.

But in the context of the current presidential campaign – a campaign in which immigrants, POWs, the disabled, Muslims, African Americans, and women have been among those targeted – it is worth examining what New York’s true values are. And what the values may be of those content with such rhetoric.

In the minds of many, New York City is not only associated with wealth, power, and sophistication. They consider the city a symbol for rudeness, arrogance, and immorality. Yet if the Midwest is America’s backbone, then New York City is the nation’s beating heart.

New York has rightly been called the city that never sleeps.

New Yorkers love that about the city – its vitality, its hustle, its sheer energy. They appreciate the cultural aspects of the city – its museums, theaters, ballet and opera companies – as much as its circuses and parades.

New Yorkers complain about the city’s crowded subways, pot-holed streets, and traffic clogged highways.

But they thrive on the pace. For them, New York City is a race run everyday.

Since its inception, New York has been a locus for commerce. It has been the vehicle not only by which well-known fortunes were made (and lost), but millions of immigrants carved lives out of American granite.

Above all, New York is a diverse city. For that reason, there is no single face (other than perhaps Miss Liberty’s) that can be said to typify the city.

Elbow to elbow during a sale at Macy’s or shoulder to shoulder at Ground Zero, New Yorkers of all races, creeds, ethnicities, and points of origin share the crowded island of Manhattan and four other churning boroughs making up the city – Hasidic jewelers, Indian cabbies, Greek restaurant owners, Cuban bus boys, and Southampton matrons alike.

New Yorkers may love the skyline, the Hudson River, and Central Park. They may love Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, and now One World Trade Center. They may love Fifth Avenue at Christmas – the glitz, the crowds, and the pretzel vendors.

But New Yorkers do not all love one another. Still, for the most part, they tolerate one another. That is an achievement the rest of the country might do well to emulate.

New York City is no utopia. It has the same problems as other large cities: poverty, homelessness, drugs, crime, and gang-related violence. Taxi horns, ambulance sirens, and gun shots are counterpoint in the cacophonous song of a great city.

And this may be the crux of the matter. The problems this nation faces – foreign and domestic – are daunting. They require more than simple solutions. No one bogey-man is responsible; no band-aid will do. That reality is frightening.

Anger is a much more comfortable emotion than fear. Attributing our ills to a single individual or group is, for that reason, tempting.

Defining that individual or group as outside the norm, unAmerican, less than human provides us a ready focus for our anger. Adding the false sheen of patriotism or moral imperative may raise our anger to the status of a crusade.

But attacking straw men will not remedy our problems…not even in furtherance of a crusade. It will not guarantee prosperity and security.  It will not turn back the clock and restore a golden age that never was.

No politician can deliver on that promise, whatever values s/he professes to hold.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts on values, Anna. New York City is more glaring of an example of the human condition than a farm town in Iowa, because of its compacted density of humanity. If you concentrate anything it becomes more obvious what it really is and the hearts of men are no exception. Politics has no lasting answers. Politicians are all about pointing out differences and dividing one group against another. Each time Satan succeeds in creating another tragedy it becomes a rallying point for one group or another against the others. The only solution is for each individual to be given a new heart in which dwells the love of God for all His creation and the only power to reconcile individuals to one another is His wondrous love abiding in us. Jesus Christ is STILL the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. without Him in our hearts we are all walking dead men spreading death in one form or another wherever we go.

    • I agree with you completely, Michael.

    • The human condition has indeed reached a critical state.

      2 Chronicles 7:14King James Version (KJV)

      If my people, which are called by my name, shall

      1. humble themselves,
      2. and pray,
      3.and seek my face,
      4.and turn from their wicked ways;

      then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

  2. There’s only One that can heal this country and it isn’t a politician!

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