Rocker Rocks New
December 23, 1999
Rocker, ace relief pitcher and trash-talker of the Atlanta Braves,
has made few friends in New York. Now he has incurred the wrath of the
Sports Illustrated quotes
him as saying: The biggest thing I dont like about New York
are [sic] the foreigners. Im not a very big fan of foreigners. You can
walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking
English, Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and
Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get into this
He went on: Imagine having to
take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like youre [in] Beirut next
to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to
some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some
20-year-old mom with four kids. Its depressing.
The New York Post, not
usually an oracle of political correctness, headlined these as
racist remarks, quoting denunciations of Rocker by
spokesmen for Korean, South Asian, Russian Jewish, Puerto Rican,
Catholic, and homosexual groups, and for good measure a hairdresser who
specializes in purple hair. One columnist accused Rocker of
hate; another, exemplifying the tolerance that makes New
York so endearing, called the Georgia native a cracker
Needless to say, this story ended the way
all such stories end: with the ritual grovel. Rocker quickly apologized for
his unacceptable remarks, while protesting that I
am not a racist.
What he should have said in the first place, of course, was
that, as Bill Clinton likes to say, diversity is our greatest
strength. Not just ethnic diversity, but diversity of behavior:
crime, illegitimacy, homosexuality, and purple hair, all of which are
bountiful in New York. When youre crowded into a dirty subway car
with such diversity pressing against you, it can make you a mite uneasy.
But you mustnt say so. You must keep repeating the official mantra:
Diversity is our greatest strength.
The Rocker story is one more reminder
that white Americans arent even allowed to have their own
perspective anymore. We live under the sort of tyranny of propaganda you
might expect in wartime, where everyone is expected to adopt a uniform
attitude or face charges of disloyalty.
Everyone in the crowded subway car is
likewise expected to savor the diversity of the experience.
But there is to be no diversity of sensation or reaction. Just paste a smile
on your face and pretend you enjoy every moment of it. Ignore your gut
response and talk like a cheery social scientist who thinks immigration
even the illegal immigration of new hordes of ruthless gangsters
is an unalloyed blessing.
Why shouldnt a man like Rocker
experience the New York streets and subway as he did feeling
surrounded by the alien, the bizarre, the sinister? Even native New Yorkers
no longer pretend that Gotham is Fun City. Crime has dipped
sharply, but nobody speaks of New York as a pinnacle of civilization, as we
did when you could go there without fear to enjoy symphonies, museums,
and the latest Cole Porter musical.
Last year I watched the old movie
Miracle on 34th Street again. The miracle that struck me
was not the Santa Claus story: it was the backdrop of a New York City we
can barely remember a city where ordinary people were
well-dressed, polite, and civilized. More to the point, it was a city where
these qualities were taken for granted, and where any exception would
have stood out. We assumed that New York would always be our cultural
mecca. What is now commonplace was once inconceivable.
Now that the old standards have
vanished, were supposed to adopt new standards to make decline
appear as progress. Obviously Rocker has somehow escaped
the mass brainwashing process. He still notices the things youre
not supposed to notice. His much-maligned brain (he is also accused of
knot-headedness) still operates independently of the
Universal Propaganda Network into which all enlightened brains are
Its no longer permissible even to
be provincial. All the provinces seem to have been annexed by a single
empire of the mind, with no residue of private space. No room in this
world for cracker boys.
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