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.


  • Robert Fox

    If the author’s point is that we suffer from decreasing civility, his position would be much stronger if he pointed to examples of incivility from both sides of the political spectrum. The fact that he only seems to observe them from one side, when there is no shortage from either side, suggests he is motivated more by politics than by incivility.

    • Joe

      Bobby, what’s your goal here with your incessant anti-left posting. You are becoming one of the most prolific (and I use that term lightly) commenters in this site. You appear to post on anything that uses the words “trump” or “black lives matter” or “climate change”.

      Liberals don’t hate you. I don’t at least, they hate what you stand for (or at least as far as we can see by what you say and what articles you choose to post on). We believe that many of these conservative views are just hateful, exclusionary and dangerous.

      I’m so glad you are in the minority – here at least. When I walk around town, I’m so inspired by the people I talk to… almost entirely. It must be hard for you to live somewhere your views are so uncommon. It must feel like everyone here is against you. I guess I understand, I hope you feel better Bob.

      • Robert Fox

        Hello Joe. How was my comment “anti-left”? Serious question. In regards to your other comments, perhaps I post here because for the most part the Local only seems to publish content from one perspective and I think it’s more interesting to have multiple perspectives. I didn’t realize you were only interested in reading ideas and comments that conform to your own world view but, frankly, I find that kind of sad. Isn’t life more interesting when you have different perspectives? I guess you can be “glad” that “I’m in the minority” but that also seems like a strange and hateful comment to make to someone you don’t know. I too love this area and its people. I have many deep friendships that go back 30 years or more, and I love the area as much, or more, than anyone else here. For the record, calling me “Bobby” and “Bob” is disrespectful and childish.

        • PMazz


          I’ve tried to talk multiple conservatives into writing op-eds for the Local with little luck. I’m always open to other perspectives and would be happy to publish conservative commentary. I’ve extended the invite to several other commentators here in the past. Many of the people who write op-eds for the Local aren’t professional writers by nay stretch. If you ever want to take a stab at it, let me know. I’m being 100% serious.

          • Robert Fox

            Pete, thanks for the comment and invitation. That is interesting to know that you have tried and had difficulty finding conservative commentators. I suspect some conservatives realize that their comments would only draw strongly worded rebukes. I note that recently one simple 250-word letter from a conservative perspective, penned in response to an opinion piece, elicited two responses, of 600 and 400 words, respectively. But I will consider taking you up on the offer.

            For the record, the Local is an outstanding paper and adds tremendous value to our community. Even though I take issue with most of the opinion pieces I read them every week. Please keep up the excellent work!

          • PMazz

            Thanks Robert. I agree, as well, that conservatives are quite clearly in the minority in NW Philly and even the nearby suburbs, and that might make them understandably shy. I have a lot of conversations with people interested but who then decide against it.

        • Joe

          Bob, no disrespect… just less characters to write. You seem to be unaware of the fact that your carefully crafted comments are in fact, disrespectful and or hateful, sarcastic – or at the very least indignant. There are ways of expressing your opinion without being a jerk. (Full disclosure, I can be a jerk also… but almost always in defense).

          Obviously you and I disagree on the nature of your comments. However, it seems apparent by people’s responses that they are offended. I think you are well aware of the line you are riding… and are the first to call others hateful. I think you are hateful, Robert… and disrespectful. This is why I respond to you in the way I do.

          Perhaps we can set up a poll and ask people what they think. But I’m pretty sure we are never going to agree.

          As far as your insinuation that I live in an echo chamber only wanting to hear things that reinforce my world view – right back at you Bob.

          I don’t mind a little healthy debate. I actually enjoy responding to your comments. I’m sure Pete does. Your presence here undoubtably helps the publication. I’m good with that as I love reading the chestnuthill local. I enjoy the writing and most of all the people (many with those signs you hate in their lawn, and a few without).

          So, I say, let’s keep the debate going. 🙂

          • Robert Fox


            1) I recognize that my comments are acerbic, but hateful? No, I don’t think they are. Show me one that you think is hateful. If I recall you’re the one who told another commenter they were “barf” if they didn’t agree with you. That really is, actually, hateful.

            2) I’m the first to call others hateful? I don’t think so. Please show me a comment of mine that labeled others with that word that pre-dates the appearance of the signs that very clearly call me “hateful.” I assure you, you won’t find one.

            3) I’m the conservative posting on a liberal paper. You’re the liberal reading a liberal paper and complaining about the presence of a conservative voice. But I’M the one who lives in an echo chamber? Riiiiight.

            4) Calling someone “Bobby” when they go by Robert is disrespectful. Doubling down by saying it’s “less letters” to write is even worse.

            I’ll keep going but only to defend myself. Not trying to get into a flame war.