Friday, September 6, 2013

Beantown Beatdown

Everyday, it seems, we are reminded that just because one holds a position of respect and dignity, doesn't mean said person is respectful and dignified.

Take Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Please.

In a New York Times Magazine interview, the conversation turned to the city of Detroit. That's when Menino checked respect and dignity at the door before opening his mouth.

"I'd blow the place up and start all over," Menino said.

Now, Detroit has its problems, that's for sure---bankruptcy not withstanding. The city is hemorrhaging population, tax base and credibility. Its schools don't perform. There's a lot of waiting that goes on---to get a streetlight fixed, to get an ambulance, sometimes to even get a police officer to stop by while a crime is being committed.

But Menino not only used a poor choice of words, he did so with terrible irony.

Boston, as you know, was indeed bombed, at the Boston Marathon in April.

Someone really did try to blow Boston up.

It wasn't very funny.


Boston Mayor Thomas Menino


But Menino insinuated that he was being funny when he used his "blow the place up" line, because his next sentence was, "No, seriously, when it takes a police officer 90 minutes to answer a call, there's something wrong with the system."

You know who says, "No, seriously"? Nightclub comedians. Often, bad ones.

Menino's city was victimized by a terrorist-like attack in April. So why would he invoke a bombing metaphor when talking about another city's foibles?

Not funny, and not appropriate. And certainly not words befitting his office.

As is typical when political types put their wing tipped shoes in their mouths, Menino made things worse by issuing one of those smarmy "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" apologies. That just served to kick Detroiters while they were down.

"Oh, you found it offensive that I suggest we blow up your city? Sorry!"

Actually, those non-apologetic apologies only serve to reflect poorly on the intelligence of the issuer.

If Menino was genuinely surprised that anyone from Detroit was offended by his acerbic words, then maybe he's not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Detroit is an easy target, and has been for years. Comedians, TV shows, movies---they've all taken their pot shots. But this city-on-city assault launched by Mayor Menino would seem to break some sort of municipal code of honor.

Some folks who commented on the newspaper websites about Menino's gaffe took a "The truth hurts, doesn't it?" tack.

"Instead of getting offended, fix the problem!" was the gist of those who defended Menino.

I understand, to a degree, that sentiment. Detroit is in a world of hurt, no question. And a lot of it is because of failed leadership and inertia from its citizenry.

But Thomas Menino isn't an Average Joe making comments on a newspaper website. He's a mayor of a big city---a city that was shaken to its core not five months ago by bombings. He ought to know that there are other, and much better ways to provide commentary on another city.

"Blow the place up"?

They tried that in Boston. It didn't work. Fortunately, the ever resonant human spirit lifted Boston from that dark day.

Yet in one insensitive comment, Mayor Menino totally dismissed the spirit and fight of Detroiters. How much can it be worth, the mayor suggested, so why not just blow the place up?

Shame on him.

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