Someone recently was very excited because there is a new slate of young, female, diverse people who are running for the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council. She is one of the contestants and wanted some input on what I thought about the VNNC.
I rolled my eyes. Nothing good has ever, ever come out of the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council, and if you don’t believe me, take a walk up Van Nuys Boulevard today and see the boarded up shops, the homeless, the filth and the neglect.
Maybe I should expand that to the office of Nury Martinez, a city councilwoman who has been in that job for some five years and has presided over the further decline and frightening expansion of homelessness that plagues our city and our district in particular.
Often young aspirants seeking election will roll out first, those labels which they think matter. You are queer, you are a woman, you came from Honduras. And you are under 30. That last designation is the most important because you have “fresh ideas”, ideas which only those people born after 1989 have thought of. And you care, you really care about this community because you are queer, you are woman and you came from Honduras.
And you are also against: exploitation, triggering, cruelty, bigotry, and policies that discriminate against homelessness, against the undocumented, and against those who have been convicted of crimes and are unjustly punished.
Fine. All fine. All open for debate, though you may not ever agree to debate these issues because you are right and I should know you are right.
But I have one thing to say to you, candidate for political office: I don’t care about your identity.
I know you are angry because growing up you wanted role models and when you looked on TV or in the movies you were given maids and gang-bangers instead of entrepreneurs and philosophers. Pity. You didn’t model yourself after Marsha Brady or Samantha Stephens so you went into a tailspin.
Your identity is your fortress, your crowing achievement, because, after all, you’ve worked hard to acquire that DNA.
But running on a platform of DNA, gender, or preference labels doesn’t stop crime, bad schools, illegal dumping, trash camping, random violence.
The Cuban-American dad who lives with his daughter near Burbank and Kester takes his Sunday morning off to ride bikes with his daughter through a trash-filled bike path along the Orange Line. Does he care if the representative who neglects this park is Latina? No, he cares if the park is clean and safe.
The Guatemalan born, American history professor who takes the bus from Van Nuys to teach at CSUN stands at a bus shelter where a homeless person has placed six shopping carts and has made a home there for three months.
The lesbian mom from Mexico who lives on Vanowen with three school age children still has to drive them from her bad school district to a better one five miles away and she helps, unwittingly, to contribute to traffic and school segregation. Would it matter if she were Irish-American, born in Indianapolis and married to a man?
The broadcasting of identities is like a theater of the absurd because it presents a chimera, an illusion of a person who comes into the public realm advertising her external labels instead of presenting her internal ideas.
I’m reminded me of Jussie Smollet’s words after creating his hoax, he used his “gay, black” identities to hide the true nature of his fabrications. By trotting out the ingredients on his label he sought the mantle of believability and righteousness. But the content of his true character remains.
I don’t care about your identity. I care about facts, about telling the truth, about pursuing equal justice under the law. And that applies to aspirants for political office as well.
The two little boys, Diego, 5, and Eddie, 7, who live on Delano, whose grandparents emigrated from El Salvador, cannot ride their bikes down to Bessemer, two blocks away, because 20 homeless people, some drug addicts, some mentally ill, live on the street there.
If Diego and Eddie were named Diego and Eddie Moskowitz and they couldn’t ride their bikes in their own neighborhood would their ethnic identities matter more?
I don’t care about your identity. Nury Martinez has a great duo of identities: female and Latina and really, truly, what does that matter for the well-being of Van Nuys?
Being a Latina, doesn’t make you a more effective thinker, leader, community organizer any more than being a Canadian from Haiti does.
Your identity won’t bring in new investment, it won’t appeal to developers, it won’t clean up the streets, it won’t lessen traffic, it won’t purify the air, it won’t make food healthier.
Van Nuys needs a dose of old fashioned law and order and political and police muscle to let the law-abiding citizens of this district know that we will not fall apart and disintegrate into factions of identities who then will be unable to come together to work as a community to fight our common problems.