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How Easy It Is To Become A Victim
Of The Beast Of Political Terror
Cliff McKenzie, Editor

The Beast of Political Terror

GROUND ZERO PLUS 1129 DAYS,--New York, NY, Friday, October 15, 2004-- Last night I had the opportunity to speak out for the Children's Children's Children in New York City. Like any politician, I blew it. I spoke as an adult, not a child. I was a victim of the Beast of Political Terror.

The issue was/is of great concern to the future.

It revolves around the building of a restaurant in Union Square Park, one of the oldest parks in New York City.

One of the playgrounds has an open geodesic dome
At the northern end of the park are three playgrounds: a sandy one on the west side has two metal climbing structures; one looks like a ladder that was bent into an arc, the other is an open geodesic dome. There are also three baby swings. Due north is a relatively new play area with three climbing structures (small, medium, large), all above a rubberized surface. There's also a sand pit and plenty of benches. The third playground is for little ones and is at the northeast end of the park. There are four baby swings, a climbing area, and lots of benches, all above a rubberized surface.

The city, searching for funds, is allowing a full-time restaurant to be built in the famed Union Square Park as part of a $14 million development of its north end, where a statue of Abraham Lincoln stands facing a pavilion flanked by two playgrounds for young children.

The developers claim the playgrounds will be enhanced, and the intrusion of a commercial business--the restaurant--will not "steal" public land from the children.

Proposed new restaurant site
Proposed new restaurant site

New York City has jealously guarded its private park territory from private development. Small chunks of real estate such as the parks belong to the people, the citizens, the travelers of the world who seek to find respite under a tree as well as a sandbox, swing, or monkey bar for their little ones to enjoy without the hawking of commerce.

Last night, the prime issue was about the planting of commerce into the kids land, the public's land. Was it in the best interests of the city, the people, the children to allow a full-time restaurant to be built where a pavilion now exists, in not great condition, and playgrounds flank it where families and children enjoy the respite of sand, slides and swings?

I was asked to attend a week before to stand up for the kids. Being a grandparent of three children who use the park, I went and planned to speak out in behalf of the children, to question the right of the city and planners and developers to take away their privacy and commercialize it.


I wish there had been a speaker from the City Parks Department

But when my time came to stand up and speak, I looked out at the audience. In a second, the children's faces seemed to disappear from sight. I saw a room full of adults, and began to speak as an adult.

I forgot to pound the rights of the children, as a child might, and began to wax on as an adult, trying to sound adult-like instead of child-like.

Then the two-minute buzzer rang.

I felt as though a club had slammed on my head.

Where were the children in my words? I had impressed no one but myself. I had not paraded the children's rights before the adults with their thirst to have a restaurant, to have a place where they--the "grownups"--could have coffee and dinner and enjoy the beauty of a free-land space, geared not for commercial development, but dedicated to the freedom of commercialization.

Had I been wary of the Beast of Political Power, that great seducer of lips and tongue, I would have known it would divert my mission and force me to wander into adult talk, where I was more concerned in getting people to "like" what I said instead of saying what was "right."

Politics is about swaying people, even if what is said is not to the point. It isn't about saying the truth. It isn't about hammering home the facts that startle and frighten people out of the delusion of now into the stark reality of tomorrow.

Politics shouldn't be about hammering home facts that frighten people
Politics shouldn't be about hammering home facts that frighten people

Take the park issue. Here is a group of adults using the playground development of the park as a seductive tool to push through the approval of a commercial restaurant. It was clearly an example of "child real estate abuse."

Using children to promote commercial development of a park is about a low as you can go on the political slime barometer, but that was the key to the argument proffered by those seeking to get the restaurant approved.

"Expand the playgrounds by 53 percent," said the promoters, "and add new bathrooms with changing stations," was the icing on the cake.

Little attention was paid to the fact that no alternatives to the restaurant were given. Why wasn't there another plan that excluded a restaurant, and dealt only with improving the park without commercial intrusion?

Rumor had it the $14 million in funds was contingent on the restaurant, and that $5 million of those funds came from a group who wanted the restaurant concession, and that without the restaurant, those funds would not be available. In other words, the redevelopment was about the restaurant, not the kids, not the power of Union Square as a public place, a forum for dissent and relaxation, a chunk of public land to be preserved for future generations.

When I sat down, I felt a dark cloud over my head. I felt I had let the children down, because instead of using all two minutes of my speaking time to rail on the flagrant violation of the children's rights to execute a restaurant, I had waxed on about how important I was as a speaker for the children.

In other words, I was casting votes for myself...forgetting about the kids.

The Beast of Political Terror caused me to forget about the kids
The Beast of Political Terror caused me to forget about the kids

I wondered how many politicians start out with good intentions about "saving the world" and then when they stand up on the platform and take the microphone, something happens to them. The words of purity they had planned to speak become polluted with the desire to be "recognized" by their peers--adults--and to win their affection and support?

It had to be some chemical nullification of purpose, because before I stood up, all I thought about was the rights of the children--my grandchildren--my grandchildren's grandchildren. I wanted everyone there to know that the voices of the children should be heard before the plan was set in concrete, and the rights of the kids be duly noted before a restaurant stole from them the privacy of non-commercialized land that could--under another plan, with a more public-geared proposal--give them even greater freedom and rights to privacy in Union Square.

But those points were crushed between my teeth as I found my words wandering about who I was, and why I was a good advocate for the kids. So when it came time to speak for the kids, I was cut shot. I got a few shots in, but the full power of the message was diluted, crippled by my own egotism.

Parents like to say: "I'm a good parent. I'm a good grandparent. I stand up for my kids."

But last night I felt just the opposite.

I felt I had left them in the wake. I could hear them calling at me: "What about me, G-Pa?"

It was my first time at the political dais, of that I admit.

But it was shocking that I was so easily diverted, so easily deterred from my primary mission of being a Sentinel of Children's Vigilance.

Some might think it was a small event, but for me, it was very large. It reminds me that even with all the time and effort I make to be an advocate for the children, I must be cautious of the Beast of Political Terror, the one that wants me to be accepted, liked, respected, adored by my peers.

That is a slimy feeling. It made me feel dirty walking home, that I had surrendered to the pressure of the group, of the room. That I had been more an adult than a child, more eager to impress than to demand, for people who have their minds set need to be hammered with the truth, with the raw truth.

The truth could only be told from the children's view

That truth could only be told from the children's view- when they are told not to make too much noise because the customers in the restaurant can't enjoy their food with all the clamor going on....or when the public bathrooms aren't working and the restaurant won't allow the kids to traipse through their fancy entrance to use the toilet, or when the kid population grows and the restaurant has already frozen the expansion of the playground in fierce, hard concrete, and the kids have no place to evolve.

Or, worse yet, that the land the kids own today has been given over to someone else, by parents and grandparents, who feel good they did something by selling out the future generations--boasting about with puffed chests that they put a restaurant into Union Square Park--and forgetting what price it cost future generations.

I was one of them last night.

The next time I speak for the children I'll be a statesman
The next time I speak for the children I'll be a statesman

I became a politician, not a statesman.

The Beast of Political Terror won.

But only for the moment.

The next time, I'll be prepared.

The next time, I'll bring the kids with me.



Go To October 9 Story: Terrorizing The Last American Indian: The End Of The Beast's Reign?


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