We don’t ordinarily aim to be a political blog here at AHNY, unless the discussion turns somehow to NYC history, culture, or politics.

Given Rudy Giuliani’s special relationship to the city, then, I feel more than justified in saying something about his rabid-attack-doggery last night. In case you couldn’t bring yourself to watch it or read the full transcript, here’s the bit I’m interested in, which came close to the end. It’s from his defense of that extraordinarily experienced executive, Palin. Rudy claims she’s

already had more executive experience than the entire
Democratic ticket combined. (Cheers, applause.) She’s been a mayor.
(Laughter, cheers, applause.) I love that. (Cheers, applause.) I’m
sorry — I’m sorry that Barack Obama feels that her hometown isn’t
cosmopolitan enough. (Laughter.)

See, it’s his use of “cosmopolitan” as a pejorative that jumped out at me, probably because one of the biggest arguments Cyrus and I make about NYC — along with historians and commentators like Tom Bender and Marshall Berman — is that NYC offers Americans a model for civil society that’s unique and uniquely appealing precisely because of the possibilities it affords for cosmopolitanism.

For Bender, NYC’s cosmopolitanism is an appealing alternative to national origin myths founded in Puritanism or Jeffersonian agrarianism, which both tend toward xenophobia. For the ever optimistic Berman, even in the face of Giuliani’s Disneyfication of the city, all the corporations in the world won’t be able to eliminate entirely the “complex practice of sharing space,” which is what he believes “gives people ideas, new ideas about how to look and how to move, ideas about being free and being oneself and being with one another.” This is, essentially, the force behind cosmopolitanism, and why such an idea and experience matter to the world we live in.

What it means for this anti-cosmopolitanism to come from a former mayor of New York, then, is that we (meaning Waterman and Patell, but you, too) need to remember to keep the city’s countercosmopolitan moments in view as part of the histories we’re creating. There are lessons to be learned from the history of petty tyrants like Giuliani, who often did seem like a small-town mayor, more concerned about banning ferrets than in taking care of the total citizenry of his cosmopolitan city.