A bomb exploded on Manhattan’s 23rd Street and 6th Avenue over the weekend, injuring 29 but killing no one; another un-exploded device turned up on 27th Street when thieves dumped it out of the suitcase it was in so they could steal it. Another bomb went off without hurting anybody in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and still more unexploded bombs were discovered in Elizabeth, New Jersey when another pair of would-be thieves made off with the duffel bag they were in, but reported its contents to the police. The bomber, Ahmad Khan Rahami, who may or may not have received training and material assistance from Isis or some other terrorist organization, was swiftly apprehended, but not before Donald J. Trump jumped in to raise the fear quotient and deplore the political correctness that prevents American police from treating Islamic visitors, residents, and citizens like Israel treats theirs. As New York magazine’s Eric Levitz put it:
‘Our local police, they know who a lot of these people are. They’re afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to be accused of profiling,’ Donald Trump told Fox & Friends Monday morning. ‘You know, in Israel they profile. They’ve done an unbelievable job, as good as you can do.’
Trump went on to condemn President Obama for allowing Muslim refugees into the country, decrying the effort to resettle Syrians displaced by war as a ‘Trojan horse’ whose true effect would be to fill America with ISIS agents.
‘How they came into the country in the first place is beyond me,’ Trump said of legal American residents whom he hopes to represent as president. ‘This is cancer from within. This is something that’s going to be so tough. They stay together. They’re plotting.’
Meanwhile, the press marveled at how the sense of business-as-usual prevailed. I love my city and I’m proud of our sangfroid. But I’m not an exceptionalist about it–New York, I think, is like all really big cities (I’m thinking of London in the Blitz) that go on because they have to.
Urban density means you’re not afraid of foreign and ethnic and ideological differences, because you share space with them. There are hundreds of thousands of Islamic and Spanish-speaking people here, not to mention Greeks, Italians, Indians, Asians, and more. Beyond that, we’re constantly having our faces shoved in horrible stuff–poverty, despair, madness, extreme politics of every stripe. I live my nice live in a nice house in a city that is statistically safer than most, but I’ve heard gunfire outside on more than one occasion, and I’ve looked down the barrel of a gun (as many of us have if we’ve lived here long enough). Seven million of us survived 9/11; it was horrible, but we know for a fact that it wasn’t the end of the world. Perfect security is an illusion anyway–people who die of cancer or in car accidents are just as dead as people who die in terrorist bomb blasts and from bullets from legal or illegal guns–but it’s much easier to sustain it when you live in a bubble.
Donald Trump is a New Yorker too, but he was born rich and he cut his teeth in his father’s business, which was building, selling, and managing segregated housing. His life’s mission has been to divide black from white, the rich from the middle class, the middle class from the poor, the hot from the non-hot, and the famous from the non-famous, and now he has applied it to his politics too. Fear and loathing sells, but despite all his efforts, it doesn’t sell anywhere near as well here as it does in other, less-crowded places.