I hadn’t owned a watch in years and when I saw Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan was having a sale I decided to endure the phalanx of perfume purveyors and doodad distributors on their ground floor in the interest of punctuality.
Fifty-three clams lighter, I popped out onto 34th Street and was practically beheaded by an upheld M16 machine gun toted by a Ninja Turtle suit that I assume had a human being somewhere inside. In all fairness, I know nothing about guns so for all I know it was a Kalashnikov or Uzi, but you get my point.
Why are there solders carrying high-powered weapons outside Macy’s—and, as I soon discovered, on many Midtown streets?
New Yorkers who have lived here since 9/11 seem to take the regular presence of soldiers with automatic weapons in public places in stride. Having moved away for some years, it is still shocking to me that this along with random searches of bags in subways—well, not so random if you’re Black or Brown—has become part of regular life under the “war on terror.”
I detest the militarization of Gotham and I don’t believe any of us are safer for it.
First of all, that guy who left his SUV with an unexploded bomb in it did so in the most patrolled area of the United States—Times Square—and yet he was only noticed by a civilian. Second, there are probably few things more potentially deadly on the packed streets of Midtown than a soldier firing off an automatic weapon. Third, for those who buy into the logic that this might deter a terrorist attack, I fail to see what those soldiers could have done to prevent 9/11.
None of this in my opinion makes Americans any safer. In fact, this steroid-infused security operation is about justifying the expense and continuance of wars and occupations around the world. What’s more, it plays into the fearmongering of bigots who want us to think that our Muslim and Arab neighbors may be harboring secret plans to do us in.
The same goes for those continual subway announcements about reporting suspicious people and unusual happenings. Should I turn in the impeccably coiffed guy in a stunning Italian suit sitting next to a homeless man in rags on the F train? What counts as suspicious and unusual?
Anyway, I don’t feel any safer. To be honest, these soldiers and announcements and cops riffling through Brown men’s bags make me feel downright agitated.
My next public talk is on Fighting the Right, Friday, Oct. 15th , Rochester Inst. of Technology, Library’s “Idea Factory,” 7PM
Thanks to MELISSA WILKS for the cool new logo—I’ve been branded!
If you’re looking for a campus speaker on LGBT and gender issues or fighting the right, check out some snazzy things that folks who’ve invited me to their campuses have to say:
Sherry Wolf knows her stuff, and delivers smart political analysis with astonishing dynamism and wit that will have you out of your seat and laughing until you cry. Her rip-roaring presentations—about the failure of liberal politics today to deliver real change for minorities, gays and lesbians, immigrants, and the poor—are great for many audiences, including students and activists. Bring her in to speak. You’ll learn more than you bargained for and leave the auditorium wanting to change the world. —Dana Cloud, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Director of Graduate Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Thinking of inviting Sherry Wolf to your campus? You should—and right away. Sherry has that rare ability to make big ideas accessible to diverse audiences, and to do so in a way that invites people to think along with her to open up dynamic and challenging conversations. What’s more, Sherry brings humility, confidence, and a sharpsense of humor, to her presentations that will keep everyone engaged. A variety of faculty, staff and student LGBT associations brought Sherry to speak about her book at Michigan State University in February 2010. The room was packed. What struck me about the event was Sherry’s ability to clarify important disagreements and debates in the discussion that helped everyone in attendance to learn more about gender and sexual equality. Her visit was worth every penny of the (already modest) speaker’s fee.—Jeff Bale, Assistant Professor of Second Language Education Faculty Liaison to GLFSA, Michigan State University’s LGBT faculty and staff association