Last week during the most recent Republican presidential debate, Ted Cruz made some comment about Donald Trump's "New York values," insinuating something negative about New York City and its general support of things like socially progressive ideas, consumerism and big business, and whatever else Cruz was lumping under his vague description. He said the following: “Everybody understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal and pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage and focus on money and the media.” Of course, politicians with New York connections came out swinging, including Trump and Clinton, and actual NYers started a hashtag (#newyorkvalues) and let their NYC flags fly in a storm of social media responses.
Maybe interesting to read and potentially amusing, but overall, a gigantic waste of energy.
All of this hoopla just kept Ted Cruz in the spotlight for more time than he deserved. First Amendment: Ted Cruz can say whatever he wants to say about New York City and its values. Thankfully, he doesn't live here. Just like I don't live in Texas. (No offense to my Texas friends, it's just where Cruz has done a lot of his work.) I have all sorts of thoughts about the values held in other places, and I've often voiced them. So be it. I choose not to live in those places.
We have to get smarter about how we respond to comments that these politicians make right now, as they're working very hard to get and keep our attention. If we buy into it and waste our time responding, we may be making a big mistake. There are far bigger problems and actual threats to address than how Ted Cruz feels about so-called "New York values." Cruz knew exactly what he was doing, as that comment kept his name flying around the media for two or three days after the debate. We should not give him the satisfaction or the benefit of our attention.
When I first started teaching at NYU, I team taught an integrated arts course for childhood education majors with some colleagues in the Department of Teaching and Learning. One of them introduced me to a small booklet called Winning Children Over by Francis X. Walton and Robert L. Powers. The pamphlet dates back to the 1970s (I think), but I found its message particularly useful, as it identifies four common goals for students to misbehave in class.
If we really consider what politicians are saying right now and analyze their actions, can't we apply some of the above goals of misbehavior to explain some of the reasons for their statements and actions? I mean, really. Some of them are behaving like the child who continually acts out in a 4th grade classroom. They resort to tactics that garner them attention and thankfully for us, also point to their inadequacies.
Rather than resorting to the same tactics every time one of these politicians says or does something inane, which at this point is like every day, multiple times a day, maybe we would gain some power by IGNORING a lot of what they're saying. They say offensive things about people, communities, ideas that I care about, but if I write a response to every single one on Facebook, I'm wasting my time and I'm just drawing more attention to them. Not productive.
Two key points:
1. Notice I say "politicians." This is happening with Republican and Democratic candidates
right now, and it's embarrassing. No one is above it, and it's sad that they're modeling this kind of behavior for anyone who aspires to be a leader, especially a young person.
2. I'm not advocating that we ignore all statements and actions. There are some truly disturbing proposals flying around right now, and that's where we should be focusing our efforts. That's where we need to exercise our agency, not in #newyorkvalues.
The moment we get embroiled in the inanity of something like a pot shot at "New York values," we're losing the fight. And we risk democracy slipping further and further away from us.