David Lynch, the great film director, once famously said about our city:
“It’s the sickest, most corrupt, decaying, fear-ridden city imaginable.”
Before this week, I would have challenged him on the corrupt, decaying, and fear-ridden part. I know we have problems, and I’ve written and spoken about them many times over the past 20 years. But being the cockeyed optimist that I am, locating that pinprick of light at the end of the dark tunnel was always possible for me.
This week, a perfect storm of events convinced me that this city has lost whatever beating facsimile of a heart might have once lain buried within the decrepit municipal body.
First, Rizzo. On Friday afternoon, a reporter friend at the Associated Press asked for my reaction to the city’s decision to move Hizzoner’s likeness from Paine Plaza. Until that moment, I didn’t really think they’d get rid of Frank. I knew that Helen Gym was all hot and bothered about the statue, and that Jim Kenney was dithering around, trying to serve two masters (Them What Brung Him to the Mayoral Dance and the rest of Philadelphia), but it never occurred to me that the city leaders would be stupid enough to offend good, decent working folk of the neighborhoods by acquiescing to the threats of the Young and the Triggered.
I should have remembered Gym’s tweets as she rallied the troops with her subliminal messages of racist white ethnics:
All around the country, we're fighting to remove the monuments to slavery & racism. Philly, we have work to do. Take the Rizzo statue down.
— Helen Gym (@HelenGymAtLarge) August 14, 2017
If you are trying to figure out whether Rizzo kept slaves, let me help you: He didn’t. But Gym was following the activist playbook, linking a man she didn’t like to race-baiting slaveholders. It’s an effective tactic for those who lack an understanding of history and context.
Not to be outdone, Kenney once suggested that people don’t like brown and black immigrants coming into the city but that they would have no problem at all if we were talking about an overflow of “white” ones like “Cousin Guido.”
Yes, Giacomo, we Italians got your message loud and clear. “Cousin Guido” is code for “racist white meatball eater, ” just like many of the people who want the statue to remain exactly where it deserves to be, front and center in the city to which Frank Rizzo gave his entire adult life. In fact, Philadelphians of all races and ethnicities want that likeness to remain where it is, because they understand that a man is defined by the totality of his achievements, not just his alleged flaws.
But because the city has “evolved,” we have to acquiesce in claims of “racism,” as if that were the end of the story, and wave the white flag of surrender.
Speaking of surrender brings me to Meek Mill. On Monday, the rapper whose bad behavior I chronicled in a column three years ago got sentenced to two to four years in state prison for violating parole. This isn’t the first time that the laughably named “Meek” was in violation after having been convicted of drug and weapons charges nearly a decade ago. He had flouted the very generous attempts of Judge Genece Brinkley to teach him a lesson and turn him into a good citizen. And on Monday, this fine and fearless jurist had enough.
Good for her, I thought. But not everyone agreed with me. The rapper’s fans were outraged, claiming that the sentence was racist. (Judge Brinkley is African American, but why let the facts intrude?) Jay-Z and Kevin Hart were apoplectic. I mean, c’mon! Philly guy knows how to string together lots of words that rhyme with itch and mow and trucker. He shouldn’t be in jail. Genius must breathe free!
And in this Philadelphia, a black judge sentencing a black man to jail for violating his probation over and over again is racism, regardless of what the crime code says.
Which brings me to Larry Krasner. Here’s a fellow who never saw a cop he liked or a criminal he hated. This man, who never stood by the side of a grieving mother and said, “I will seek justice for your loss,” is now going to be in charge of keeping us safe as district attorney. Playing on that sense of victimhood and grievance disguised as “fairness,” Krasner snookered a bunch of malcontents into believing that the system was rigged against them.
He forgot to mention that the real victims were the white, black, and brown people lying dead in the street.
“Sickest, most corrupt, decaying, fear-ridden.” Yup, that works.