Comments: Week of February 18, 2013

1. Former mayor Ed Koch died February 1, and we devoted a special section in last week’s issue to remembering, commemorating, and arguing with the loudmouthed Democratic reformer, budget-­balancer, and inimitable New York character (The Mayor of Crazytown,” February 11). In comments on, our readers wrestled with his legacy, too—most of them taking a more negative view than we did. “Koch was not a champion of affordable housing, he was the mayor who gave tax exemptions to corporations in the city at the expense of poor and working-class people,” wrote one reader, who also called Koch “one of the most divisive mayors in New York City, inflaming racial tensions in the African-American and Latino community … During his administration was when the seeds were set for gentrification and the removal of the poor. His legacy is policies that created the modern tale of two cities now presided over by Bloomberg.” Other readers focused on the mayor’s rumored homosexuality, the subject of endless speculation during his life, particularly pointed in discussions about his unwillingness to take action as aids ravaged the city. “Mayor Koch was a good mayor, but I wonder what it was like for him never to have loved someone intimately—never to have had a deep personal/sexual and loving connection—and if he did—he had to hide it. Good mayor but tragic figure.”

2. “Can a party rule by capturing most of the country but less than half of the people?” asked Jonathan Chait in an essay examining the GOP’s desire “to rig the Electoral College” by “allocating the electoral vote in each state not in a lump sum to the candidate who gets more votes, but piecemeal, to the winner of each congressional district” (Who Needs to Win to Win?,” February 11). Readers blanched at the proposal, which would mean an overrepresentation of rural (largely white) voters at the expense of urban (and darker) ones. “ ‘One acre, one vote.’ This is a return to antebellum life,” wrote one. “This is what happens when you think things are Really Different This Time,” wrote another, worried the plan just might take root, and already looking to pass out blame: “Democrats got lazy in the nineties. But who could blame them, it was declared that we were at The End of History.”

3. “I was a very culturally aware 16 year old at the time, so I love NY Mag’s article about how 1993 changed the world,” tweeted @buzz of Carl Swanson’s essay addressing a New Museum show proposing that our culture changed irretrievably that innocuous-seeming year—what with Bill Clinton’s neoliberalism, the rise of the Internet alongside multiculturalism and identity politics, and the conquest of the mainstream by “indie” culture (Are We Still Living in 1993?,” February 11). “Sure, we may be able to mark 1993 as the year of the great shift, but it took a great deal of effort and time to make that shift happen,” wrote one reader at “The unsung heroes in this story are the people pushing boundaries from 1975 through 1992: artists, pop musicians, designers (of clothes and furniture), founders of independent record labels, and the creators of hip-hop, late-­twentieth-century futurism, New Romanticism, two-tone, and ska, the shambolic multiculturalism of the early eighties, postmodern gender-bending, and New Pop.” Others found the hyperbole of the central argument a little, well, hyperbolic: “After experiencing 1993 in Russia, my parents decided to move to the U.S. It was not an innocuous year there.”

4. “Somewhere between a third and a half of all American households contain a gun, and those guns are increasingly designed not for hunting but for modern military use or armed self-defense,” wrote Benjamin Wallace-Wells in an essay on the firearms used by Newtown shooter Adam Lanza and what they can teach us about American fear (Adam Lanza’s Arsenal,” February 11). “As a nation we cower before the gun lobby and the many adamant gun nuts who have large private arsenals,” wrote one reader at “Tragedy after tragedy occurs and nothing gets done.” But another wrote that not every gun owner is a gun nut, even those who trust their weapons for self-defense. “As a child, groups of Staten Island toughs pelted my family’s car with rocks as we shopped for a home in their neighborhood. They did so because we are black and because we were unarmed. Growing up in the U.S., it is made explicitly clear to young black men that law-enforcement officers and the authorities are not there on your behalf,” he wrote. “As such, you may pass all the laws you want; but I will not surrender my AR-15, my Glock .40 S&W (same as the police), nor any of my useful self-­defense tools … Stop crime by eliminating the gangs, legalizing drugs, controlling psychotic drugs, not by disarming good people.”

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Comments: Week of February 18, 2013