Amidst fear and loathing, it’s hard not to have a smidgen of sympathy for Frederick Young, the 43-year-old career criminal who slashed a pretty young Korean tourist’s arm with a machete in Bryant Park last month. After all, it’s no fun—and not one’s own fault—to have demonic voices in one’s schizophrenic head, warning that every passerby is a Martian carrying enough Kryptonite to blow you up if you don’t attack him now. Even political philosopher Thomas Hobbes acknowledged that madmen live outside the social contract, lacking the reason to understand, much less obey, the laws. In the 1960s, the destruction of the state mental hospital system—inspired in part by flower-child sentimentality and in part by a cynical ploy to dump the mentally ill off the state budget and onto some other government’s ledger—created a disaster whose cruelty historians will add to the list of other barbarities that the supposedly enlightened, supposedly progressive twentieth century perpetrated.
But one look at the smirking face of drunken bum John Addis, 40, sticking out his tongue as police frog-marched him into custody Saturday, after he smashed Xiaoming Huang, 51, across the face with a two-by-four, without a word of warning, as the Chinese tourist walked by the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street, where he had been staying, inspires nothing but outrage. What you see here is not madness but evil. Here is a muscular, well-nourished guy, who reportedly bought eight or ten cans of beer a day from the local 7-Eleven, presumably drank them, and then, having drowned any inhibitions, went out and assaulted passersby randomly, sometimes at least giving the warning of “Fuck you, bitch!” before sucker-punching a 39-year-old woman walking on Second Avenue. The 7-Eleven employees, one of whom Addis already had assaulted, expected him to kill somebody, and of course the cops have arrested him repeatedly. As Aristotle rightly judged, the man who commits crimes when drunk is doubly guilty—not only of the crime but also of voluntarily divesting himself of the reason that tells him the difference between good and evil, and makes him human. And he deserves a double punishment.
A few more incidents like this will stop tourists from coming to Gotham and choke off a rich growth industry, as top cop Bill Bratton recognizes. So while Mayor Bill de Blasio blathers about raising taxes on “the rich” to fight his chimera of inequality (which some days seems like his version of Kryptonite), his heavy anti-cop rhetoric, and the ongoing efforts of his city council allies to decriminalize quality-of-life offenses like fare-beating and public urination, threatens to sweep away many of the unskilled hospitality-industry jobs that the orderly New York of Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg nurtured. Think of de Blasio as the Inequality Grinch who could steal Gotham’s earned prosperity.
Take a walk around the Grand Hyatt and neighboring Grand Central Terminal these days. It’s often like stepping out of H.G. Wells’s time machine straight back into the 1970s or 1980s. Vanderbilt Avenue, in particular, is becoming once again the urinal of the universe, with one block wall-to-wall “bum stands,” as my son, with childhood inventiveness, used to call them: the stolen supermarket shopping cart, the garbage bag full of scavenged cans and bottles for redemption, the prone figure wrapped mummy-like in a filthy blanket. The heart sinks. It took so much effort by so many people to clear up the human wreckage that so many years of liberal “compassion” had created in a dying New York. And to see it all—I can’t put it any better than the esteemed New York Post—“pissed away” by a mayor not smart or perceptive enough to have learned one thing from the experience of the last 20 years, since his own personal demons have left him stuck in the politics of the 1950s and 1960s, is tragic. It is so hard to build; so easy to destroy.
Listen, Mayor: the first job of government is to keep the people safe in their homes and in the streets. If you can’t do that as a municipal chief executive, you are a flop. Equality is not the job of government, unless you are a Communist, in which case equality usually comes at the barrel of a gun or the end of a noose. And voters of New York, please learn this lesson too, despite your attachment to FDR and the New Deal or your seductive professor of race-class-and-gender studies at Brown or Wesleyan. New York needs a realistic mayor. We don’t have one.