The subway passenger felt secure enough in present day New York City that he allowed himself to doze off while seated aboard a Manhattan-bound F train during the morning rush on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
After all, crime in New York is down 50 per cent since 1998, 80 per cent since 1990. Robberies are down 21 per cent compared to the same time last year, despite the sharp curtailment of “stop-and-frisk” that supposed experts said was sure to trigger a rise in crime.
Another man boarded the train at Jay Street in Brooklyn and sat next to the dozing passenger. The car filled so that those who subsequently boarded had to stand. Some no doubt grabbed the center poles to steady themselves.
Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton once remarked to the Daily Beast that the sight of hands of every kind—manicured and grimy, dainty and tough—one atop the other is what he would present to someone as a symbol of New York’s greatness in old times and new.
“It’s the center pole,” Bratton said. “Every day five and a half million people hang on it.”
He added, “And by and large they get along.”
The dozing passenger happened to be Asian and 63 years old. The man beside him happened to be Hispanic and in his 30s. They rode on with the rest of the train from stop to stop.
Around 9:20 am, as the train was reaching the Bryant Park—42nd Street station, the Asian man awoke. The Hispanic man flew into a rage whose immediate cause was unclear. The nature of it was made unmistakable by his words.
“Why don’t you go back to your own country?”
The Hispanic man proceeded to spit on the Asian man and punch him in the face and body. The attacker then hurried off the train and disappeared. The assault was added to the growing tally in the one category of crime that has skyrocketed in our new president’s hometown.
As of last Tuesday, bias crimes in New York had spiked 400 per cent since the election as compared to the same two-week period last year.
“We are up considerably,” said the present NYPD police commissioner, James O’Neill.
O’Neill remained cautious about ascribing a particular cause to the rise. But he had noted several days before, “I have no scientific evidence as to why, but you’ve been paying attention to what’s been going on in the country over the last year or so and the rhetoric has increased, and I think that might have something to do with it.”
Even so, O’Neill is not one to jump to conclusions. And the NYPD is tasked with assisting the Secret Service in providing security for the new president, no less so because many of us believe him more responsible than anyone else for the heightened rhetoric.
Along with placing a considerable security burden on New York with plans to keep his penthouse as a residence during his presidency, Donald Trump has almost certainly helped spur a hate crime spike in a city that derives its greatness from its diversity and otherwise leads the rest of the country in crime reduction.
To make it worse, Trump seems to have no understanding of the policing miracle that occurred all around him in recent years as he sat in his tower. Trump suggested during the Presidential debate on suburban Long Island that “stop-and-frisk” had led to the unprecedented decrease in crime in New York City and that crime had gone up after “stop and frisk” was curtailed. Hillary Clinton rightly disagreed.
“Crime has continued to drop, including murders,” Clinton said.
“No, you’re wrong,” Trump replied. “You’re wrong.”
“No, I’m not,” Mrs. Clinton said.
“Murders are up, all right,” Trump said. “You check it.”
Stop-and-frisks in the city were down by 97 per cent since 2011, but murders during that same period were not up, but down, by 32 per cent. That, after an already astonishing drop by more than 50 per cent since 1993.
Along with those facts comes this: even as Trump was promising to “make America safe again,” he did not bother to learn how the city where he was raised and where he continues to reside managed to make itself the safest big city in America.
Since his election, his only public reference to safety in New York came on November 19, after Vice-President elect Mike Pence was booed by some audience members at a showing of Hamilton.
“The Theater must always be a safe and special place,” Trump tweeted. “The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
As with crime reduction in New York, Trump was either indifferent or ignorant when it came to the particulars. The cast had not shown the slightest disrespect. The actor playing Aaron Burr, Bernard Victor Dixon, had stepped forward at the end of the performance to say “there is nothing to boo here” and to welcome Pence. Dixon had then spoken on behalf of all those who suddenly felt less safe everywhere after Trump’s election. His words are as worth rereading as any of those of the real Aaron Burr.
“We, sir, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us.”
In a speech of his own back on election night, Trump had also called for people to come together and promised to be the president for ALL of us. But those had just been the words of a demagogue who had gotten what he wanted and now wanted to escape any responsibility for the incendiary and hateful things he had said to get it. His game clearly was to make it seem as if he were the unifier and his opponents were the dividers and the haters.
But although he could suddenly announce that Hillary Clinton had been a worthy opponent and go from “lock her up!” to leave her be, the poisonous passions he had unleashed in defeating her could not be dispelled simply because he was coaxed into looking into a camera on 60 Minutes and saying, “stop it” to those inspired to hate and violence by his win.
For all the talk during the campaign of him going ”off message,” Trump had in fact stayed right on message the whole time; it is okay to judge people by their race, ethnicity and religion and to brand entire groups as rapists and to mock the disabled and to scoff at the family of a fallen hero and to tell unending lies even about 9/11 and to denigrate women and even boast about sexually assaulting them. His election apparently affirmed all that for his supporters and his central message remained toxically supreme no matter what mixed ones he has since begun sending.
Bias crimes continued across the country. His hometown witnessed an average of more than two a day while every other category of crime in New York remained at lows rightly termed historic.
Six days after Trump was nudged to finally say “stop it,” four young Muslim men were approached by a trio of white men as they sat on a bench in Trump’s native borough of Queens.
“I don’t want any Muslim sitting on the bench,” one of the white men was heard to say.
The white man then hit one of the Muslim men in the face with a bottle, fracturing his eye socket.
At least the Asian man on the subway three days later escaped serious injury.
But there are sure to be others, for the psychic pestilence he unleashed will still be out there, whether or not Trump ends up flip-flopping about Obamacare and everything else. You might dub him President Pandora were it not unfair to the woman of Greek myth to associate her with the hoohah grabber in chief.
Hours after Tuesday’s bias attack on the subway, Trump flew off to Florida for Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago estate. He returned on Sunday evening to New York and the tower that is now protected by more than 100 of the cops who perform the continuing miracle of making his hometown the safest big city in America in every crime category but the one he helped incite.
Trump is of course one New Yorker who can count himself safe in every regard.