there is water underground.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dear Rudy (In Defense of Community Service)

There are ways to criticize a person and his or her record without denigrating the role that many people proudly take on every day. However, regarding Senator Obama, you said the following at the Republican National Convention: “He worked as a community organizer. What?? Okay, maybe this is the first problem on his resume. …He has never led anything. Nothing. Nada.”

You have implied that community organizers are not men and women of the people. I find it hard to believe that you would stoop so low as to insult citizens with the best intentions, biggest dreams, and – far too often – too few resources. People who want to see improvement in society and are tackling it one problem and one person at a time. People who take it upon themselves to organize, inspire, and lead others. Worst of all, you have implied that someone who does these things is unfit to have a larger leadership role, such as that of President.

To be sure, Senator McCain has endured trials that no person should ever have to experience. He is a good man, and he has given more than his share of service to this country. I don’t think there is a person in either party who would deny that. But to insinuate that the only method of service to one’s country is via the military is to condescend toward the 99% of Americans who are not on active duty or on reserve.

As a New Yorker, I am ashamed that you would consider community service as something to be scoffed at. You of all people should know that a city (which, by definition, is a large community) is only as strong as the people who comprise it. A city is bolstered by the people who do the right thing in times of crisis and in times of peace. A city is only as healthy as the people who work at every level to ensure that streets are safe, parks are clean, schools are respectable, and civility is the norm. You appear to be in contradiction with many of your party supporters who raised their “Service” signs in the rear of the convention hall. You seem to have forgotten your roots as the head of a narcotics unit, and later as the leader of a large city. You seem to have forgotten that people who are involved with their communities often go on to do great things just as often as those with military experience.

So Rudy – if I may call you that, being that I apparently exist at the lowest level of your totem pole (read: someone who aims to improve communities through education) – I have lost what respect I had for you. I have no real quarrel with your attacks on Senator Obama or the Democratic party; this is a political game and I know that mud must be slung, barbs must be leveled, and facts must be altered. But your condemnation of community service is unfair, crass, and beyond reproach. You have disappointed me and insulted many of the people whom I know, work with, and care about. And therefore, I feel justified in leaving you with the words of the late, great George Carlin (another proud New Yorker who did his community service by bringing rays of laughter to the city, I might add): Go fuck yourself. And go Mets.


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