ny_tanked

The Real Terrorists To NYC

Jose Vilson Jose 9 Comments

“ There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. […] Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

- E.B. White, “Here is New York”

With all due respect, because E.B. White by all accounts is a great writer, but this is complete bullshit it’s just not that accurate. I’m ambivalent about comments like this with all the recent, subconsciously and increasingly anti-NYC sentiment pervading this citadel’s air. I’m confounded by the possible reasons, but if the recent flood of movies is any indication, the weird relationship between the “settlers” and NYC will always be tenuous at best.

Check the latest disaster flick coming out in Christmas in which now it’s Keanu Reeves’ turn to pick up the pieces after NYC gets destroyed: The Day The Earth Stood Still. At first, when I saw NYC getting destroyed on film, I knew it was because places like NYC, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, and other big cities just have an exceptionally fun look when they’re getting destroyed … but only when it’s fake. After 9/11 and after seeing the massive overhaul of old buildings and businesses here, cranes falling, houses on fire, rising cases of breathing issues from NYC residents, and bar after bar popping up all over Manhattan, I wonder if this barrage of movies destroying NYC is some sort of subconscious attack on the NYC native’s psyche.

And I’m not that defensive about New York; it can more than handle its own. As a native New Yorker, I cheer for the Yankees and root for the Mets on off-days (honestly, Yankees fans have little problems with Mets fans. Not so the other way around …), take the F, V, A, D, and the 1, drink bubble tea and eat sushi with soy sauce with the best of them, can tell you the best way to get to any neighborhood by train, bus, or taxi, have a scary understanding of the history of the Lower East Side complete with why we pronounce Houston HOW-Ston and not HUE-Ston, and a blogroll replete with NYC bloggers. Yet, when someone’s a true Red Sox fan and not some myopic bandwagoner, or prefers their quieter suburb to the crazy confines of this city, I respect that because that’s what they know. Besides, with all of NYC’s pro-capitalist, pro-emperialist (The Empire City anyone?), anti-activist, and white collar tendencies, I’m almost living a contradiction.

Yet, when I see the drastic changes to the city, when “settlers” try to be more NYC than me, when developers keep razing condos and no one can afford to live in them while supposedly low-cost housing keep getting like condos, when none of this matters to the kids who were born and raised here, it gives me more clues as to who are the real terrorists to New York City.

And scarily enough, I can’t quite put a face on them either …

jose, who doesn’t think it’s the settlers, the natives, or the commuters per se …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 9

  1. Sherman Dorn

    Your choice of images is apt: There’s a lot of film analysis that sees the Godzilla/Gojira films as a way for postwar Japanese culture to talk about nuclear warfare. I think 9/11 is still too close to think about disaster films in the same way here: the first Godzilla movie wasn’t until 1954, almost a decade after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I could be wrong; there are no absolute parallels…

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    Jose

    Fair enough, but we can say that NYC had already been destroyed a few times before 9/11, and I bring that up because it’s become much easier to destroy NYC in movies after 9/11 with all the CG and desensitizing due to the recurring (ad nauseum) news channels using terror for ratings. And like I said, all this destruction is concurrent with the real “rebuilding” of NYC. Weird stuff.

  3. Jonathan

    Lots of stuff, lots of touched nerves.

    I know how to say Houston, but I don’t know why.

    I’ll never be a native. I’ve lived here since before any of my students were born. Doesn’t matter.

    But I am offended by the out of towners running the mayor’s office and the transit authority and the department of education.

    Class and race are the biggest divides. And location. The boroughs are different from Manhattan, and less different from each other, but there are more similarities between far neighborhoods with different feels in different boroughs, than for example, between Fordham and Riverdale.

    Humble means low to the ground, if we choose that meaning.

    I like the title.

  4. Tayinnaweyin

    Like Cheney said, it’s a given that we are going to loose a city to a ‘terrorist’ nuke. maybe these images and themes in current films is the Pentagon/Hollywood’s method of desensitizing us to any destruction of NYC. And if it does not happen to NYC, it will be one of the other ‘liberal’ cities. And 50 years down the road(if there will even be a 50 years down the road) it will come out that it wasn’t a ‘muslim’ terrorist group but a militant christian group that was responsible.

  5. e.

    oh i really enjoyed this. as a settler it doesn’t quiet hit as close to home as it probably should. as for the terrorist, i live in bedstuy, maybe 6 blocks from the marcy projects and i see lil white chicks jogging in the morning. the end is near and there’s no where left to run.

  6. Danielle Vyas

    I was born and raised in Boston now in Vegas.

    This is a great piece but is it “the settlers” that are recreating the image of New York’s destruction.

    I would imagine that those who are in the arts and are dedicated and move to New York add flavor to the city but then you have people out to suck it dry.

    We still feel something when we see the World Trade Center in movies, I know I do. Why would an industry try to recreate destruction? It is hard for me not to smell a focused motive.

    Great to connect with you at Twitter.

    Peace
    Danielle

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    Jose

    Tayin, I gotta tell you, at first I didn’t know how to read that comment, but now that I read it, you’re on the mark, my friend.

    JD, loving the comment. I’m offended by ppl in general who come into a situation acting like they know it all about a situation and impose their views on others rather than (at least) doing their research and not being croonies and yuppies. Whoops, did I say that?

    e., as a visitor, you fit. even as an NYer, you’re fitting in quite nicely. I will say though that even those joggers aren’t the cause. wish I could put my finger on it …

    danielle, yes, let’s bring this to twitter, along with that meme I’m cookin’ up for Thursday …

  8. Hugh O'Donnell

    Jose, you’re right on target about the developers and greed. It’s the same right here in Hillsboro, Oregon! But I have a feeling that New Yorkers will overcome.

    BTW, I was a Dodger fan till the bums left Brooklyn. I wouldn’t root for the Yanks or the Mets if my life depended on it. ;)

  9. Exodus Mentality

    You may know that I’m a native of Atlanta, GA. But I am now one of those “settlers”. I wasn’t aware that my presence here could have such a profound impact, and now that I do, I will endeavor to tread softly. I’ll always be a Georgia boy, and I couldn’t imagine NY being anything like where I’m from.

    But can I add a bit of out-of-towner perspective to this mix? I’ve only been here two weeks (I expect to be here at least two years), and I’m an explorer so I made a point of looking around a bit, Staten Island, Bronx, Manhattan. From what I can see there are at least two New Yorks, and possible more. One is the Manhattan style New Yorker, and one is the Borough bound New Yorker. These two people tend to view NY from very different perspectives. Perhaps I should be more discerning of who is new to this and who is a native, but the vibe I’ve gotten in these areas and from the people is markedly different. I’ve seen borough people act differently when thy are in Manhattan; haven’t had a chance to see a Manhattanite in the boroughs yet. But like I said it’s only been two weeks, and I was a commuter (from NJ) for that whole time .

    I’m looking forward to adding some of what I bring to the NY mix. Everyone tried to warn me before I got here about how NY is, and I have to say I’m really enjoying the city thus far. As for the movies, NY and LA are where everything is happening. Do you know how bad we want somebody to blow up Atlanta in the movies. The only person who cares about us is Tyler Perry, and he ain’t blowing up squat.

    Jose, if it’s not too much trouble, hit me on the email and give me the insider’s view. I could use some guidance from a native who’s active in and knows the pulse of the city.

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