Last night I chanced upon a real piece of work babbling on a television news program. I’ve heard some wild and crazy statements made about New Yorkers in my time, but this one’s statements crowned him as the top nut on the fanatical fringe sundae.
This one claims we’re “all elitist snobs.” That we “look down upon” people in other parts of the country. That if we were to move elsewhere, it wouldn’t help any of us correct our faux-lofty outlook; we’d bring our superior attitudes along with us and laugh at anyone living in a rural area. That our elitism was the worst thing about us – even worse than our political views.
At that point, I got disgusted to the point I turned off the news program – a pity, as it turned out, since I didn’t catch his name. If I had, I’d have already complained to his network about him. I’d also like to throw a shaving cream pie right in his face, because it was obvious that that pundit obviously has never lived in New York City. He’s probably never even been here, except maybe as a tourist. It was crystal clear that he has a profound degree of contempt for us – without really knowing us.
People come here from all over the country and all over the world. Every state of the union is represented here. More than eight hundred languages are spoken on New York City streets. Walk down any city street and you’ll see a parade of cultures right before your eyes. In my own neighborhood I hear Russian and Cantonese spoken more than English. I know how to navigate through pedestrian gridlock in several languages – “excuse me,” as used to get through the crowd, translates as “excusez-moi,” “perdon,” “mi scusi,” “enschultdigen Sie bitte,” “izvinyitya” and “em goi,” in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and Cantonese, and I’ve used them all. I either get my morning coffee from a shop where Guatemalans help me learn new words every day in Spanish, while I teach them the equivalents in English, or from another little deli run by a family from Saudi Arabia. Some of the members of that family aren’t all over here yet. The proprietor “introduced” me to his wife one morning over a Skype hook-up. “Come to Brooklyn,” I urged her, “you’re going to love it here!”
The clothing styles people wear here are a treat and reveal their national identities; it’s a veritable daily international fashion show . Hasidic Jews walk down the street, passing Indian women in colorful saris or Pakistani ladies in their traditional pants suits. In my neighborhood, I’m in a minority because there are so few American-born people. My fellow Brooklynites are pleasantly shocked when they ask me when my family first arrived on American shores and I reply that as far as I know, the first relative of the Quinn side of my merry band was here by 1820.
Are there also some elitist snobs here? Yes, of course. One of the funny signs (among several) that can be seen when you enter my borough says, “Welcome to Brooklyn…Name It, We Got it!” That covers the snobs – as well as everybody else from everywhere. Every locality has its share of snobs, and so what? If you don’t like the snobs in your town,what makes you think we’d adore ours?
Let me ask this, though: would true elitist snobs really congregate in a city where there are so many cultures living side by side, making friends with one another and learning bits and pieces of one another’s ways? Would snobs eat in all kinds of international restaurants, as we do here, attend one another’s parades, and enjoy one another’s cultural celebrations? Of course not! So Little Mr. Pundit, whoever you may be, you who have never lived here, I’d like to suggest that you come on over and meet us before you try to stick us with any more ludicrous labels. There isn’t only one kind of New Yorker; there are thousands!
I’ll close this post with another sign that can be seen in my borough: