With mayhem raging across the globe, I am particularly grateful this Thanksgiving for being an American and a New Yorker.
The root of the terrorism nightmare in Paris and elsewhere is intolerance. The Islamic State looks not only at Christians and Jews, but also at the “wrong” Muslims, as infidels who must be destroyed. And on a lesser scale, we still have too many people in this nation who look at those unlike themselves as frightening or inferior.
Not so much in NYC. We mingle on a daily basis with people of all colors, religions and sexual orientations. When your face is two inches away from people of a different color or background on the subway each day, it’s hard to generalize about them.
Houston recently voted down a gay rights ordinance because religious extremists stirred up fears about which bathroom transgender people would use. Honestly, do you really care? Many of the bathrooms in NYC restaurants are unisex, and no one blinks an eye. We are too sophisticated for such nonsense.
Tolerance and respecting differences are the hallmarks of a New Yorker. You’re devoutly religious? Good for you. An atheist? Fine with me. New Yorkers see couples of different religions or races, or two men or women in love holding hands, and most of us smile. Don’t try this in Saudi Arabia or Iran — or, yes, too many backward U.S. enclaves.
We feel safe to be ourselves in this town. Yes, we’re aware that we’ll always be a prime target of terrorists, but we don’t let fanatics dictate our way of life. Speaking of which, this might be a good time to salute Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and former Commissioner Ray Kelly for making NYC the gold standard for vigilance against such terrorists. Thank you.
And while we’re giving thanks, don’t you think Thanksgiving is the perfect time for Congress to show its appreciation to those who made incredible sacrifices for us on 9/11? Renew the Zadroga Act!
This holiday isn’t about gift-giving or setting off fireworks. It’s about family, friends and gratitude. And I’m thankful to reside in a live-and-let-live city of diversity and tolerance. Let’s never take that for granted.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.