A week after I stood in front of the Municipal Services Building and gave an interview to a local station about why we should not remove the statue of Frank Rizzo from that public venue, the statue is still there.
I’m betting that the statue will still be there when Councilwoman Helen Gym, who pushed for its immediate removal, is a great-grandmother living in a retirement home in her native Seattle. It will still be there when Mayor Kenney, tired of having to deal with what he calls “a hunk of metal,” is an 80-year-old volunteering as a tour guide at the Mummers Museum. It will still be there when all the rowdy Black Lives Matter and Antifa folk are protesting in their motorized scooters and AARP-issue hats. And it will still be there when Jane Golden, gone to her final reward, is depicted on the side of the Barnes Museum with a paintbrush in her hand and a smile on her face.
If I were to have to choose between the Big Bambino and the progressives who are absolutely nauseated by his presence in the public square, it’s a no-brainer: The former mayor and police commissioner has staying power.
I wrote last week about why I thought the statue should remain, mostly because I have an aversion to whitewashing history. One man’s racism is another woman’s natural social progression, and we start treading into dangerous waters when we let self-described “victims” redesign the urban landscape. It is also unconscionable to allow outsiders to dictate the parameters of our “tolerance.”
That’s right, I said “outsider.” Here is where my tribalism comes out, and if you have a problem with it, I would suggest you flip the page to read the television listings, which will be much less painful for your tender psyche. We in Philadelphia are divided on many things (Pat’s or Geno’s, Angelo or Howard, the ’93 Phillies or the ’08 Phillies, Bednarick or McDonald, Wanamaker’s or Strawbridge’s, scrapple or actual food.) We are an ornery bunch. But when it comes to our sense of identity, we do not like people who came here well after they stopped teething to tell us what we need to do to become civilized. I would have liked to explain that directly to Gym and give her the chance to debate the issue with me in a respectful manner, but she ignored my requests for an interview. I’m assuming she was too busy tweeting at her supporters to #resist. (It did, however, give me an opportunity to do my best impression of Gym explaining her position, based on an interview she’d given to a rival radio station. You can access my podcast here.)
But, you say, it’s not just the Seattle native who wants the statue gone. A lot of people who are Philadelphia-born want that statue removed. Given the admittedly anecdotal evidence I’ve been able to gather over the past week, I’m convinced that the number of hometown natives who really have a problem with Frank Rizzo waving at them from a public perch is infinitesimally small compared with the number who want the statue to stay right where it is. Ironically, I’ve found that people who heretofore had no real opinion were galvanized by these progressive do-gooders on moral steroids and decided to push back. Sadly, it wasn’t pretty.
Gym tweeted about all the racist and sexist responses she’s been getting, and I’m not happy about that. Making your point by personally attacking your opponent is the sign of a feeble mind.
But she’s not the only one attracting vitriol. This is what appeared on my Facebook page from a guy named Joshua who agrees with the councilwoman and other opponents of the statue: “Honestly I hope you get in a car crash … and you have to be hospitalized. I hope your brain can’t function and you’re no longer able to type or dictate your thoughts.”
Clearly, there’s enough hate to go around. And frankly, I think both sides cancel each other out. Which is why I’m not afraid that the statue is going anywhere, or that the mural in South Philly will be replaced with the likeness of Lenin.
And speaking of Russians, I wonder what would happen if some free-market capitalists decided to deface the mural of Paul Robeson. Since we’re all about historical accuracy, we can’t ignore the fact that Robeson was so angry about Jim Crow laws in the U.S. that he moved to the Soviet Union and became a useful idiot for a brutal dictator, Joseph Stalin. I’d be outraged if they ruined his likeness, as outraged as I was last week when I saw what some lowlifes did to the mayor’s mural.
We should all just grow up and move on to more important things. Like getting started on that mural to Dutch Daulton.