by David Rosen
This week I saw a Broadway production of The Crucible, a harrowing and disturbing production of the masterful Arthur Miller play which is pertinent even today. The Crucible is the story of a town that consumes itself in religious fervor by seeking out and hanging witches. The witches have compacted with Satan, but those who are accused, who confess, are pardoned.
The male lead, farmer John Proctor, sees the witch hunt for what it truly is, a dark farce originated by a teenager with whom he has adultered with. However, his clarity does nothing to abate the panicked clamor of the witch trials, which once started by girls claiming to see spirits, takes on a life of its own, as the religious establishment coopts the movement to claim land from fellow farmers, and reinforce their rule. A great production directed by Ivo van Hove. Unfortunately this limited engagement ends this weekend.
In the weeks past horrific shootings of black men each on the polar opposite ends of the Mason Dixon line gripped the nation. The deaths of Philando Castille in Minneapolis and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge at the hands of police officers arresting them were each live streamed. Hours later a radicalized Army Veteran act out his own murderous fantasy armed to the teeth in Dallas. President Obama led a torn nation with a message in response, “We are not as divided as it seems.”
Then barely a cycle later, 84 people were killed celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France by a murderer. There is now a coup in Turkey. Their President is a hardliner, and their democracy is criticized throughout Europe, where the middle class sees his government as a human rights catastrophe, though perhaps a keeper of the peace.
Where I live in New York City, police are posted 24 hours a day outside my door, protecting from an imminent chaos and unseen evil. And yet, in a nation and world so large, our news is focused on conflagration, such that we can’t see the subtle beauty of society without turning off the talking heads. Moreover we can’t notice the modest gains of our great City, and recognize the imminent threats that aren’t related to terrorism. In New York City, we are an example, imperfect as it may be, of what the future of society will be throughout the world, and the world watches in disbelief, as our integrated society flourishes, while the isolated among us harden.
A friend and father I have known since my Brooklyn childhood found a new career selling Solar Energy in Massachusetts. He is on a 24/7 social media black lives matter diatribe, he himself the father of mixed children. Family members of mine rail against Monsanto on Facebook, while other friends create moving works on the threat of climate change. And in the midst of these fights, the LGBT community has, perhaps without the same tilt of fanfare, made gains nationally in securing marriage equality. New GMO labeling laws have started. Carmelo, CP3, Lebron and D-Wade led ESPN's annual awards with demands for civil rights. If then it can be proven, upon reflection, that progressive movements might win actual progress, then we should not ignore these passions.
Chase bank announced a companywide raise for all salaried employees this week and the US stock markets all reached record highs. US business, led by technology and science, has a clear path to growth through everything from robotics to virtual reality. Where a man died watching a movie in his Tesla on autopilot mode we cry, but that a man can drive a car without emitting fossil fuels, we almost act blasé… as if.
New York City is the safest big city in the world, we have decent public education, a surviving middle class, and a hardscrabble affordable housing policy that is older than most of its citizenry. Here are things New Yorkers can be proud of, and these are great examples to help the nation and the world find its way, lest we find ourselves victims of endless witch hunts:
1. Laws matter: in NYC, for better or worse, a legal structure is larger than factions. From urban planning to a Mayor and Police commissioner who are smaller than their laws, we may not be perfect, but our standards are consistent. Once ruled by the Mafia and Tammany Hall, we have made gains in my lifetime.
2. No guns: despite having the largest population density in the country, New Yorkers aren’t in constant fear of getting shot.
3. Public Transportation: the best in the world, it allows us to do more, quicker and easier, with less stress, than we could ever do without it.
4. Environmentally conscious: from cleaning the Hudson to the green roof on the Barclay’s Center. Our farmers markets are organic, and by not denying our effects on our environment, but investing in Parks and conservation, we strive for equilibrium
5. Diversity: We take for granted the melting pot of cultures, but can’t fathom living without the cuisines and colors that educate and enrich us.
I hope our Big Apple doesn’t forget that our people need not ever stoop to the mob and maintain our forward progress by focusing on what got us this far.