It is hard for me to write about politics without frothing at the mouth. A lot of commentators are entertained by the horse race – who’s ahead, who’s behind, who’s sprained a limb, who’s coming out of the pack in a surprise advance – but I can’t forget that elections affect jobs, healthcare, education, the environment, and for some people, it’s a life-or-death decision. Many are the times I’ve scared my cat by screaming at the television, either at a commentator’s remarks or at the President who inspired them.
Tuesday night, I scared my kitty again. This time, they were screams of joy. Rudy Giuliani had lost the Florida primary.
There is a myth that Rudy cleaned up New York City, that he was a tough but fair elected executive who made the Big Apple safe for tourists. In truth, he terrorized the city, embarrassed us with his childish antics, and would have had to slink away from office if there hadn’t been a terrorist attack on his city for him to exploit.
Let’s consider one of his claims: he cleaned up Times Square. It is true that there used to be a wide variety of shops in that neighborhood that sold entertainments of a prurient sort. It’s also true that today, there are hardly any. Instead of sleazy shops and movie theaters, there are massive chain stores and franchise restaurants. It looks about as dangerous as a suburban mall – and about as interesting.
You may wonder why that’s so bad. Aren’t there a lot more people coming to New York to shop in Times Square now? Doesn’t that create a lot more jobs?
Perhaps. I’m not sure those are good jobs, working in McDonalds (even a really big McDonalds with lots of neon signage). However, the sex merchants aren’t gone. They moved out of Times Square, a commercial district, and into residential areas. There are a series of storefronts on Sixth Avenue near Fourth Street (which is no more than two blocks away from several playgrounds, elementary schools and churches) that were rented to such businesses during Giuiliani’s term. Now they advertise “Fantasy Parties,” and the windows are full of costumes, lube and double-headed dildoes. Now, I’m not opposed to double-headed dildoes. Some of the most successful people with whom I’ve worked in comics have been double-headed dildoes. That said, I was not happy to see them every day as I go about my business, especially when I had my young child with me.
It’s true that there are many gay businesses in my neighborhood, some of them catering to the same impulses. Most of these, fortunately, desire the goodwill of their neighbors and manage to communicate what they’re selling without garish displays.
Crime dropped during Rudy’s tenure, but crime dropped all over the country at that time. The squeegee men – homeless people who would wipe your car windows when you were stopped at a red light, hoping you’d reward them with some spare change – were discouraged, so that a cab ride might be more pleasant, but the homeless continued to live on the streets. Rudy’s New York might have been safer, as he claimed, but only for white people. If you were black, you were likely to be stopped and frisked at random by the police. Sometimes, you were sodomized by cops, or faced 41 shots.
The level of discourse certainly suffered. Giuliani couldn’t stand it if anyone disagreed with him. He drove away police commissioners and school chancellors who attracted admiration. He denied the public permits to demonstrate at City Hall. He threatened museums that displayed art that he thought insulted his religion.
It was horrible. I’m so happy the rest of the country won’t have to know what it was like.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of ComicMix, recommends Toys in Babeland instead of Fantasy Parties.