What I Really Meant When I Said “Obey”, by Bill DiBlasio
Nosotros los Pobres blog is pleased to be able to publish this exclusive guest writer piece by New York City Mayor Bill Di Blasio as Part Two of our occasional series, Meet the Liberals. Find Part One here:
What I Really Meant
If the police are giving you instructions, you have to obey them. That’s not debateable. Look at me; I tried to disobey my police department. I even wanted them to obey me. They turned their backs on me at funerals. They even stopped writing tickets. How do you expect me to have enough money to fund broken windows if you don’t write tickets? But they did it. I’m telling you, don’t mess with these people. They scare me.
Sometimes people haven’t obeyed the instructions of the police. Not a smart idea. Aside from the eight hour day, workplace safety laws, the right to strike, benefits, unemployment, medicare, Medicaid, social security, the National Labor Relations Board, women’s right to vote, black people’s right to actually register and vote, desegregated schools, the end of the war in Vietnam, bilingual education, the end of colonialism in Africa and Asia, the end of Apartheid, the end of feudalism, the Haitian Revolution and worker-owned and run factories in Latin America, nothing good ever came of not obeying the police. If you start to do it now, when you have a progressive mayor like me in office, you might make it hard for me to get re-elected and then I won’t be able to complete those affordable apartments for artists to live in East New York and Mott Haven.
You know, I’m an ex-radical. It’s not like I don’t admit that I have a couple of good reasons to obey the police. One good reason is privilege–class privilege and race privilege. I mean, the police probably aren’t going to tell me to do anything I wouldn’t want to do anyway. It’s not like I’m a black or brown kid getting stopped for no reason for the hundredth time. It’s not like I’m a street vendor getting the little I have thrown into the gutter. It’s not like I’m one of the workers picketing outside Liberato restaurant in The Bronx and the police are trying to tell me I have to stand at least 250 feet away from the establishment. Now that I think about it, where do they come up with this stuff? No matter how scary they are, I think my police have a real comic flair. Two hundred and fifty feet…that even sounds like it could be a real law!
Another good reason I want people to obey the police is, well, don’t tell anybody this, but being in office changes people. It’s a pretty good life, you know, bodyguards, a limo, Gracie Mansion (if you want it; I’ve got an affordable apartment in Brooklyn Heights, so I prefer to warehouse the place for a future occupant, space being so readily available here in New York). I’ve got a friend who’s not even mayor, he’s only a city councilman, but you should see how he changed. He used talk all day about Lenin and Castro, and now he supports charter schools in Washington Heights. He used to be a taxi driver, and now he pushed a bill through his committee that gives the Taxi and Limousine Commission the power to take away a livery driver’s car for picking up a passenger on the street. It doesn’t get any better than that!
It’s not just us, though, it’s not just a few bad apples. This government thing, especially this bourgeois government thing, like my councilman friend would have called it back in the day, it’s just not set up for you working people. We have another friend who was president of the Dominican Republic. His party is actually called the Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana, PLD). He liberated himself from ever seeing his great-great-great-grandchildren work a day in their lives–and he still sits back and tells the president who’s in office now what to do. He had to back away from a couple of the planks in the national liberation platform–like he started stripping Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship, for example–but that’s what politics is all about, right? Compromise. There’s this guy in Nepal that was actually a Maoist, a heavy radical. Now he hangs out in China. And when he’s in Nepal he makes laws outlawing strikes. I’m telling you, I don’t know one single example where being in power hasn’t changed people, I have colleagues all over the world–in Nicaragua, South Africa, forget it. If you want to live well, this is the way to go. But you have to obey the police. I know that now.
I have to tell you one other secret, though–I’m afraid of more than my police department. Who I’m really afraid of is the people. That’s why I’m telling them they have to obey the cops. They have no idea what a golden opportunity they’ve got on their hands. I mean, look, don’t they get it? The cops turned their backs on me and stopped handing out tickets for a week, and I shit my pants. What would I do if regular working people stopped obeying the instructions of the police? If they started going on strike; taking over schools and universities; blocking traffic and occupying luxury buildings in gentrifying neighborhoods? I’d give them everything they wanted, that’s what–and quick! I let them get beat down the other night, just so the cops could let off a little steam and stop being mean to me, but I can’t keep doing that, I mean, I’m not on their side but I want their votes. If I get out of this job without too much trouble, I’m set for life. If they were to shut the whole city down, they could probably get community control of the schools, restore open admissions at CUNY, and stop gentrification, at a minimum.
And believe me, that’s the only way they’re ever getting anything worthwhile out of me and the liberal sellouts in the City Council. It’s shut the city down or watch those high rises with poor doors go up in the South Bronx.