Rebecca Solnit's open letter to Trump: You should really visit New York some time

Rebecca Solnit (previously), one of my favorite writers, has published an open letter to Donald Trump, "New York City Is a Book Conservatives Should Read," which celebrates the city's teeming, messy, multicultural vigor — something she delves into deeply with Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, a book about the "innumerable unbound experiences of New York City [with] twenty-six imaginative maps and informative essays" (just ordered mine).

Solnit celebrates the immigrants, Muslims, inner cities, Latin@ culture, acceptance of LGBTQ people; the city's incubation of Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, and all the other Trumpian bogeymen. Then she asks, how is it that Trump manages to hate all these things and still profess a love for NYC? Maybe it's because he never "comes down from your tower, other than to stuff yourself into a limousine en route to a jet."

Solnit schools Trump: "the New York of rich white people is a small slice of the city. Beyond it are a thousand New Yorks with thousands of ways of living and working, hundreds of languages, dozens of religions, and it all comes together every day on subway platforms, on the streets, in the parks, the hospitals, the kitchens, the public schools. Because ordinary New Yorkers get out and mix, and this coexistence with difference is the beautiful basis for a truly democratic spirit, a faith that we can trust each other and literally (and figuratively) find common ground by mingling in public."


But we were talking about Muslims, not gay and lesbian residents, though I'm sure there are some gay Muslims to include, because everyone is here. Everyone. New York City Muslims are taxi drivers, the guys inside some of the halal food carts all over Manhattan, as well as lawyers and scholars and professors, programmers and designers. They are fathers, toddlers, grandmothers, high-schoolers. Part of what's so beautiful about this city is how complex the cross-categorizations are. A lot of Muslims are immigrants or children and grandchildren of immigrants, from Africa as well as Asia, but a significant percentage are African-Americans whose roots go far deeper in this country's history than yours or mine do. Their ancestors built this place, including, literally, the wall that Wall Street is named for.

Speaking of African-Americans: have you ever been to Harlem or the Bronx? You keep talking about black people like you've never met any or visited any black neighborhoods. Seriously, during that last debate you said, "Our inner cities are a disaster. You get shot walking to the store. They have no education. They have no jobs. I will do more for African-Americans and Latinos than she can ever do in ten lifetimes. All she's done is talk to the African-Americans and to the Latinos." Dude, seriously? Did you get this sense of things from watching TV—in 1975? And by the way, talking to people is a really great way to discover where you are and who they are. You should try it. "Inner cities" is a stale, leftover term from when cities like New York were crumbling from divestment and declining population, and crime really was high (news flash: it's declined nationwide over the past quarter century, even though you like to harp on the hiccup in Chicago). When you talk about the "inner city," you sound about 40 years out of date.

[Rebecca Solnit/Lithub]

(via Kottke)