Diligent readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of Curtis Sliwa and his much-maligned organization, the Guardian Angels. So, depressing as the recent rash of anti-Semitic attacks in the NYC metro area has been, I was pleased to encounter this item online (ht: Chris Santo):
The Guardian Angels, a private, unarmed crime-prevention group, said it would start patrolling New York City’s Brooklyn borough on Sunday following a series of anti-Semitic attacks.
Curtis Sliwa, who founded the organization in 1979 in New York City, said the patrols would start at noon in the Crown Heights neighborhood and expand to Williamsburg and Borough Park later in the day.
There’s a lot of bad blood between the Guardian Angels and the NYPD, and between the Angels and the press, or at least the left-leaning press. A huge heap of horseshit has been written about the “vigilante” character of the Guardian Angels, or going to the other extreme, about its hapless ineffectiveness as a crime fighting organization. It all seems pointless to me. I don’t get the hostility.
There’s no question that Curtis Sliwa has said and done some questionable things in the past, and sometimes behaves in public like a buffoon (two things I can pretty easily relate to). But I don’t remember the last time I saw the staff of Vice, Rolling Stone, or The Atlantic putting their bodies on the line to patrol the subways or streets of New York City, or anywhere else for that matter. And as someone who’s spent enough time in Gotham to have the right to talk about the place, I’ve never quite understood what game the left press thinks it’s playing when it goes out of its way to underplay the unpleasantness and the occasionally menacing quality of ordinary life in the Big Apple–an ambience not always captured in official crime statistics (taken as gospel truth until disputed by #MeToo, then conveniently rejected).
Few people who spend time in New York City can fail to have witnessed some fucked-up scene or other that called for a response of some kind without quite meriting a call to 911. Sometimes one jumps in, more often one doesn’t, but in almost every case I can think of, I remember wishing I had “backup.” I don’t know whether journalistic sophisticates regard such occasions as opportunities for cynical indifference or heroic intervention, but I’ve seen a hell of a lot more of the former in New York than I have the latter. New Yorkers seem to take it all in stride without ever quite grasping how abnormal it is relative to what’s taken for granted by genuinely normal people–meaning, the rest of humanity outside of the Five Boroughs. And while Bill DeBlasio may be obliged to call the NYPD “the best police department in the world,” with all due respect, that’s not the first word that describes my encounters with them. I’m sure they’re all great guys, but the first thing I do when I see one is walk the other way. Not so the Guardian Angels. Give me a choice, and I’ll take the red beret over the man in blue almost any day of the week.
So three cheers for the Guardian Angels. I’m looking forward to seeing some on my next jaunt to Brooklyn–and thanking them for their service. If that overused phrase has any meaning at all, it surely applies here.