Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Disrespect from Politicians

I'm a little flabbergasted by commentary I see everywhere not only about, but sometimes also by NYPD. They turned their backs on the mayor at a funeral. It's odd, because in fact the mayor has not said a disparaging word about them. However, this man, who was elected by 73% of New Yorkers, mustered the audacity to tell the city, after a man was killed on the street, that he told his son to be careful when he went out, that he was concerned for his safety.

For this, the NYPD turned their back on the mayor at a funeral where he was paying his respects to a murdered officer. What sort of a society is it where an elected politician may not tell a heartfelt truth? Would Pat Lynch like personal approval over every word said on mass media? Are we a society in which we are not only prohibited from criticizing police brutality, but also from expressing empathy with its victims? I'd hope that not even police would support police brutality.

I've heard de Blasio blamed for these murders, which is ridiculous. I've even seen the same people who say people kill people, guns don't, are blaming de Blasio for the actions of this deranged individual.

I understand police being proud of what they do. My daughter wants to be NYPD, and I've said nothing to dissuade her. If she actually follows through, I'll be proud of her too. I always respect people who do jobs I'd be no good at, and as such I respect the police.  I'm not NYPD, but rather UFT, and I'm proud to be a city teacher. I think there are few jobs as important as mine. I can certainly understand police feeling the same way.

Here's the thing, though. There is clearly a different standard for teachers. We are trashed regularly by pols, and often by NYC mayors. I've watched Rudy Giuliani say teachers stink and shouldn't get a raise. I've actually heard him blame teachers for the Eric Garner killing. Mike Bloomberg regularly made outrageous statements about us. He said he wanted to fire half of us and double class size. Joel Klein regularly trashed tenure and step pay. I still hear people, all of the above and more, demanding all sorts of reformy nonsense. Who cares if merit pay has been around for a hundred years and has never worked? I see so-called liberals like Bill Maher talking about how teachers need to be fired. Whoopi Goldberg says outrageous stereotypical nonsense about us without a second thought.

There was some big thing with Joel Klein and Condi Rice saying we were a threat to national security. Rod Paige, former US Education Secretary before he started buying off journalists to pimp out his programs, called us a terrorist organization. You'd think we were that, or public enemy number one, or a zombie plague ascending upon America.

Actually I don't think it's that bad to turn your back on the mayor--if you have a valid reason. My first act of union activism was marching in a UFT Labor Day Parade. We all wore black shirts that said, "Shame on City Hall," and planned to turn our backs on Dinkins for denying us a contract, if I recall correctly. There was a good reason. Anyway, Dinkins ran off to a tennis match before we got the chance, but I still have the shirt.

I don't feel much like wearing it today. I don't think Bill de Blasio deserves scorn for trying to calm down NYC after a man was killed on the street and a grand jury cleared the man who did it. We have seen a few peaceful protests. We have also seen some random acts of lunacy. I have seen people twist logic in bizarre ways trying to attribute this to Bill de Blasio. Rudy Giuliani spouts bile, saying it wouldn't happen under his watch. As a matter of fact, 9/11 happened under his watch, and he'd determined it was a good idea to place his emergency room on a high floor of a proven terror target.

It's lunacy to think that a democratically elected mayor has no right to try to calm down a troubled city. We'd be better off without the attacks on de Blasio. They are unwarranted, as are the perpetual and visceral attacks on teachers.

I see teachers who've done next to nothing repeatedly attacked in the tabloids, with their names and spurious charges that have been dismissed. Neither they nor police ought to be disrespected by politicians.

But honestly, Pat Lynch appears to have no idea what it means to be have voices of alleged authority spew condemnation. He could learn from us, and I certainly hope he never has to. But loving your children and trying to protect them is far from a crime. Trying to keep the city together during a time of crisis is the mayor's job.

There are certainly things UFT could do better. Still, I see absolutely nothing we could learn from the example of Pat Lynch right now.
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