According to the Board of Elections, only 13 percent of the city’s 3.7 million registered voters are Republicans. As the Republican National Convention comes to this very un-Republican city for the first time, many on both sides of the political fence are wondering: “Will we be able to get along, even for four days?” I propose the following code of ethics for the potentially challenging times we are about to face.
For the delegates and other convention participants:
Remember that you are a visitor. Yes, we are all Americans, but we come together from vastly different cultures. If you observe an unusual or particularly colorful local custom, don’t express contempt or attempt to show your moral superiority. You wouldn’t want us to react that way in your town, would you?
Be ambassadors of good will. If you have a good experience here-and we sincerely hope you do-tell the folks back home about it. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Encourage your friends and family to plan a trip to New York. Like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life , one person can do a lot of good for a community-even if it’s not yours.
Clean up after yourself. Sure, you’ve heard the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Well, that doesn’t mean you should throw trash on the street or spit on the sidewalk, even if you see the natives doing so. We’re the ones responsible for cleaning up after the party, so do us a favor and make the job a little bit easier for us, please.
Be a patriot . It has become fashionable in some Republican circles to question the patriotism of those who don’t support the war in Iraq. Please abandon this attitude before setting foot in New York. Whether Republican or Democrat, we are all proud to be Americans, even if we strongly reject some of the policies of the current administration. We didn’t question your patriotism during the Clinton years, so please don’t question ours now. The true patriot is the one who embraces political diversity.
Spend your money. No matter what you may have heard to the contrary, we’re happy that you chose New York as your convention town. Visit our restaurants, buy tickets to Broadway shows and use our public transportation regularly. Three years after 9/11, the city is still struggling financially, so spend, spend, spend those hard-earned dollars! We may not share your political point of view, but we welcome your cash. And being New Yorkers, we’re not afraid to tell you so.
And here’s some advice for New Yorkers:
Be hospitable. Believe it or not, we have a reputation for being rude. Let’s show our visitors that we’re just as friendly as anyone from their own hometown. Take the time to give directions when asked, or even to volunteer them if someone looks lost. Recommend your favorite restaurant. Smile.
Do no harm. It would be great if everyone could be decent, kind and compassionate to our visitors, but at the very least, we should avoid causing any pain, psychic or otherwise. There is no justification for making our visitors feel unwelcome in any way.
Go the extra mile. We may not have an ethical obligation to do so, but it would be gracious to give more of ourselves than we have to. Let’s offer a seat on the bus or subway to that delegate who looks scared or confused. Let’s give the Republican from Iowa or Nebraska the taxi we were going to take-or, better yet, let’s share it and strike up a friendly conversation during the ride.
Take the high road. Many of us will choose to express our views about President George W. Bush’s policies through the constitutionally protected right of protest. However, there are better and worse ways to protest. Gathering in Central Park or in front of Madison Square Garden is one thing; lobbing invective at individuals we encounter on the street is another. Outside of organized, lawful protests, our mothers were right when they told us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Save the Bronx cheers for a baseball game.
Remember the golden rule. Granted, New York’s version of this precept may be “Do unto others before they do unto you.” But it’s important to remember that people from the rest of the country learned a slightly different version of the golden rule. Let’s treat our out-of-town guests the way we’d like to be treated as visitors in their neck of the woods.
If New Yorkers and Republicans can live together peacefully for a few days in late summer, there just may be hope for the rest of the world.