I traveled to New York last week. It was not my first time there but since I went in 2008 I was expecting a different city, particularly a different feeling of the city, the President’s hometown, in Trump’s America era. I meant to write you something of value, though fearing my limited time there couldn’t give me the clairvoyance needed to make my opinion reliable.
New York has everything: it is a mess of a love story with a dose of action and a deep melancholic meaning that no one seems to really grasp. The city that never sleeps remains wide awake, frenetic, alive. There is talent in every corner, rhythmic music echoes from the dark, dirty subway up to the whimsical trails of Central Park. Unknown and brilliant. Each avenue hides a secret, every street is a mystery. You never coexisted more still it makes you impossibly aware of your own loneliness. You are nothing, a human amongst humans – no faces, no names – yet it seems you can turn that nothing into something, into anything. You can set New Yorkers apart from rest-of-the-world aliens; they all look like they’re not there to anybody, hiding behind headphone sets and rude or indifferent faces, however you kind of know they are just busy chasing after a dream. What that dream is hardly matters. And nobody cares. Nor judges. That is New York.
It’s obvious the city is not an accurate representation of America. New York does not belong to America. It belongs to the world. You meet people of every shape and color, speaking all kinds of languages you can imagine. New York is the house you made into a home because you desired a change, because you have a dream, because you hope for a chance of a better life outside your country of origin. That was its promise and I am unsure it can keep it.
Every now and then I walked past a protest. People are angry. People are afraid. Muslim, gays, latinos, black people, immigrants, they are all unrested. They fear they will get more and more segregated and some even deported and sent back home. But home is no longer home. Home is America.
Of course not everyone is anti-Trump. When in the Trump Tower – were I went for research purposes and to pee – I encountered people taking photos, buying a lot of Trump’s merchandise and even a mother telling her daughter, who was in a middle of a tantrum, “if you can’t behave you cannot be in Mr. Trump’s house, darling. Do you think Mr. Trump would’ve approved of what you’re doing?”. This is the example of one of many whom look up to him, who thinks he is the remedy to America’s illness, an illness set by the already under protected minorities. There is no surprise the Tower is in true apparat with all the security measures – which by the way are costing New York an estimated million per month. The front entrance, the one open to the public, is sealed by at least five guards with shotguns in hand. Protesters made this bit of the 5th Avenue their favorite spot to show discontent. No surprise there either.
In a local bus to Queens, a predominantly African-American borough often caricatured by President Trump as ‘such a dangerous place people could get shot just by leaving their houses’, – which is, in my very limited experience, not true, I never not felt safe, even at night – I heard a black girl, about my age, hastily dismissing another African-American fellow, calling him dumb, just because the man exited the bus through the wrong door and ran against her – by mistake and apologizing – saying “this people”, that I interpreted as the minority she is included in, “they are so dumb, that is why I voted for Trump, because people are so stupid and dumb, they need to be controlled”. It shocked me. This is not the time to be apart, it is crucial to be united.
On another hand, the policies of the state’s Mayor De Blasio are, not in a subtle way for that matter, opposing to those of the President. He casts himself as a defender of immigrants and minorities vowing to block Trump’s hate politics. And that is palpable, even for me, just passing by. The city is filled with adds displaying support and assurances of protection.
People are worried, restless, afraid. They protest more, their claims are substantially more urgent. But if there is a city prepared to take a stand against Mr. Trump hate administration is New York. If there are people in this world with fire in their bellies they are New Yorkers.
I went there hoping to feel something very different in the air. But I came to the conclusion that New York remains, in its core, exactly the same. Maybe just more fervent than ever before. But hey, that is not far from what I had expected.