Part 4—A big burlap bag of Joe Crowleys: Where does talent come from?
In our nation's political history, the question has most often been asked about the rise of Abraham Lincoln. How did a person of his background end up writing the Second Inaugural Address, with its radical refusal to blame The Others for the things we ourselves have done?
Where did that astonishing level of talent come from? We found ourselves asking a similar question as we watched the online campaign ad of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a political statement which is brilliantly written and brilliantly performed.
If you haven't watched the tape, you should watch it today. The two-minute ad starts like this:
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Women like me aren't supposed to run for office.She's a working-class New Yorker! "We deserve a champion," she dares to say in her ad.
I wasn't born to a wealthy or powerful family. Mother from Puerto Rico, Dad from the South Bronx. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny.
My name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I'm an educator, an organizer, a working-class New Yorker.
If you haven't watched the ad, we'll strongly suggest that you do. We're omitting the passage which is most brilliantly composed—the poetic passage where Ocasio-Cortez asks, "Who has New York been changing for?"
Instead, we're moving directly to this passage, where she refers to "our schools:"
OCASIO-CORTEZ: It's time to fight for a New York that working families can afford. That's why I'm running for Congress."A New York for the many is possible," the candidate eventually says. "It's time for one of us."
This race is about people versus money. We've got people. They've got money.
It's time we acknowledge that not all Democrats are the same, that a Democrat who takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn't live here, doesn't send his kids to our schools, doesn't drink our water or breathe our air, cannot possibly represent us.
It's hard to deliver a message like that without seeming tribal, divisive. Among her other talents, Ocasio-Cortez has the type of demeanor which permits her to make such statements.
In the passages we've quoted, Ocasio-Cortez is criticizing Joe Crowley, the old-school pol who has represented her district in the House for the past twenty years.
She's saying he isn't one of us, that he's a corporate pol. He doesn't drink our water or breathe our air.
His kids don't go to our schools.
As it turns out, Ocasio-Cortez didn't go to our schools either, at least not during her high school years. The leading authority on her life offers this remarkable capsule of those teenage years:
She attended Yorktown High School [in suburban Westchester County, New York] from 2003 to 2007, and, while there, won second prize in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, with a research project on microbiology. As a result, the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.Where does talent come from? In this case, it led to the naming of an asteroid, though admittedly just a small asteroid, not long after the end of talented party's high school years.
(For a fuller account of this matter, see this profile by Daniel Malloy. To see a formal citation of the small asteroid 23238 Ocasio-Cortez, you can just click here.)
You rarely see talent of the type displayed in that two-minute ad. Let's return to the claim that the corporate Democrat, Joe Crowley, "doesn't send his kids to our schools."
The comment made us think of the ugly, horrible editorial in Monday's New York Times. We're inclined to say that the gruesome piece was composed by a big burlap bag of Joe Crowleys—by a burlap bag full or corporate squirrels who don't send their kids to those schools.
They also don't display the slightest interest in what goes on in those schools. The editors only seem to care about New York City's "best schools." They made this announcement in their headline, and in all that followed.
Preening and posing from spots in the Hamptons, the editors pretend to be trying to "desegregate" those "best schools." What this actually means is quickly clear:
They want to kick the Asians kids out. They want to replace the Asian kids with kids who are black and Hispanic.
This isn't the doing, or the fault, of any of those kids! But Mayor de Blasio, who should be ashamed, is currently trying to start a race war. In the process, the mayor is rising to say that his name is Joe Crowley too.
"I am Spartacus," a bunch of people once filmatically said. By way of contrast, the editors have now said that they're Joe Crowley. Their years of entanglement with wealth and fame culture have apparently left them unable to see the ugliness of what they're doing.
The editors want to kick the Asian kids out of those prestigious, high-powered schools. As you watch that two-minute ad, can you picture Ocasio-Cortez adopting some such approach?
For us, that picture doesn't compute at this point. During this longer interview tape, here's the way she describes her district:
OCASIO-CORTEZ: My community is the Bronx, Queens and Rikers Island. Our district is 70 percent people of color, and we've never had a person of color represent us in American history...Do you get the feeling that this smiling presence would dump the immigrant Bangladeshi kids so other kids could take their seats at our eight "best schools?" Do you get the feeling she'd want to dump the kids who aren't "kids of color?"
We are the first person of color, I believe, to run for the seat, in a district that is so predominantly and heavily immigrant, Hispanic, Latino, Bangladeshi, and so on.
And so, I'm really proud to be in this race, and I'm really proud to be giving people in the Bronx and Queens and Rikers an option where they don't feel like they have to sell out at the ballot box.
Watching that tape, we don't get that impression! But in Monday's ridiculous editorial, a big bag of Crowleys made it clear that that's what they want to do.
Tomorrow, we'll continue our review of Monday's editorial. We'll have to postpone our review of the District 3 "desegregation plan" until the first two days of next week.
For today, we want to contemplate the question which arises from world history. What explains the mystery of talent? We refer to intellectual talent, and to talent of demeanor and outlook.
Lincoln's life has long been used to illustrate an important point—incomprehensible talent can arise anywhere. In this instance, a young person emerged from the Bronx by way of Yorktown High.
She acquired her first asteroid soon after that, then moved to the harder stuff.
Ocasio-Cortez seems to be a person of unusual talent. That said, every kid in New York City has talent and decency too.
People who aren't named Joe Crowley should be looking for real inclusion, and not just in eight schools. They should be looking ways to give all of New York City's kids the most challenging public school experience those many different kids can manage.
People who are named Joe Crowley will adopt a different stance. They'll instinctively focus on the "best schools." It will seem natural to think that The Other Schools don't even exist.
As they focus on the "best schools," they'll want to pretend that they're performing some sort of great work. As they start an ugly race war, they claim that they're pursuing "desegregation."
Ocasio-Cortez sent Crowley packing. Who will rid us pseudo-liberals of this unwise board?
Tomorrow: Decades of ways to pretend
Where does talent come from: We can think of one other time in recent years when we've seen talent like that. We refer to Malala's astounding speech at the U.N. when she turned 16.