by Jay A. McCalla
A long time ago, I learned that cilia (microscopic, hair-like extensions) work to keep dust and dirt particles from entering our lungs. Cilia are critically located in our breathing system and do their job by creating a cough that repels gritty filth when we ingest it. It’s a natural, important feature of the human body that helps keep us healthy.
Alas, our brave, selfless cilia aren’t necessarily a permanent feature of our body and can’t repel every single piece of tiny debris. Asbestos fibers, for example, travel down the bronchiole and most get stuck in the large airways, while others pass further and reach our precious cilia – destroying them completely.
With our reduced ability to cough and repel contaminants, we are at increased risk of asbestosis, mesothelioma and a range of other deadly respiratory ailments. In short, we may may become perilously unhealthy.
I think of these things because, in my view, Philadelphia is presently threatened by an awful lot of airborne pollutants that undermine the health of our communal affairs and the future of our city. Our already weakened civic cilia are under unusual attack, in short.
Almost three months ago, Mr. David Jones was the subject of a traffic stop, during which he fled on foot. A police officer pursued him and shot him in the back – twice – and killed him. In other cities (you can easily name them) there would be a significant reaction that would be nationally noticed. But, here, our cilia are damaged so this event entered our civic body without real reaction.
Back in May, Larry Krasner won the Democratic nomination for Philadelphia District Attorney, and the head of the Fraternal of Police (the same union that endorsed Donald Trump for President) labeled his supporters (many Blacks, ex-offenders and millennials) “parasites of the city.” We should have coughed and repelled that pollutant, but we ingested it without reaction.
Perhaps, because of our failure to properly react to that pollutant, the FOP’s John McNesby recently upped the ante by calling Black demonstrators “a pack of rabid animals.” It’s completely reasonable to expect that some cops will be animated by this message, putting minorities in increased peril when interacting with them.
Nobody coughed. The Cardinal did not cough. Black politicians, business community, labor leaders, gay community, faith community – nobody coughed. The most racist analogy I’ve ever heard was not countered, rejected or rebuffed by any significant Philadelphian. Mayor Kenney offered a mild criticism of his key supporter, but only after having been pointedly asked.
Damaged cilia, no doubt.
A tense debate has broken out over the presence of the always controversial Rizzo stature. The councilperson who helps lead the effort to remove the statue has received death threats. No cough. A few months ago, a high-profile developer (cast by some as a “gentrifier”) in Point Breeze had two properties damaged by arson. In the last two weeks, more of his properties were damaged by arson. No cough.
With the Republican candidate for DA appearing on Breitbart Radio, a culturally controversial outlet, and refusing to denounce McNesby’s horrific comments, one doesn’t have to be James Carville to see the potential for a bitter and racially divisive campaign. But, where is the coughing? Where is the sincere effort to push back when civility is threatened by outlandish, incendiary remarks that ill-serve us all?
Council Majority Leader Bobby Henon was present for McNesby’s remarks, as was Councilpersons Mark Squilla and Brian O’Neill. All have refused comment to the media.
Anyone who is 40 years of age or older can attest to the extreme coarsening of our politics and public exchanges over the last decade and a half. Since November of last year, desecrations of Jewish cemeteries have soared along with violence against marginalized populations across America.
We are a great city with great passions that must sometimes be challenged by people of good standing and goodwill lest the erosion of our civic cilia prove fatal.