Thursday, March 28, 2013

Our City is Better Than This...

I just looked up the definition of "palace coup" online.  Here's what I got:  
"Sudden overthrow, often violent, of an existing government by a group of conspirators. Coups are most common in countries with unstable governments and in countries with little experience of successful democracy. Their success depends on surprise and speed. Coups rarely alter a nation's fundamental social and economic policies or significantly redistribute power." 
When I think about the timing of the recent move  by some Council members to censure, condemn, or take a no-confidence vote in our Mayor, I instantly think of places like Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, and late-1970s Iran.


Because if you look at the pattern of coup d'etats around the world  -- particularly in countries that have frequent coup d'etats -- they disproportionately happen when the leader's back is turned.  In "low trust" societies, that's how a lot of things work.

As Francis Fukuyama says in the book linked here, trust is the commodity that enables great societies to prosper.  Our country, by the way, is so successful in large part because we are a "high trust" society.  [If you think that sounded jingoistic, I would advise you to spend six or more consecutive weeks in another country.  Come back and we'll talk].

Choosing a moment in which our Mayor is on paternity leave -- by the side of his wife, who is preparing to give birth to their first child -- to stir up plans and schemes of regime change (since tamped down by those who have pointed out the pesky limitations of Plan E and the Charter) shows no class.

It is the most visible -- but by no means the first -- time that someone has found fault with our Mayor and chosen to use a public forum, rather than a simple, "behind the woodshed" course correction, in order to make their point.  That tells me everything I need to know about where politics and principles stand on those peoples' priority lists.

Outwardly, it also reflects badly on our city, which has pulled ahead of its Gateway City peers in so many respects in recent years.  How strong is the foundation of that success, though?  Brockton has made amazing educational strides in that same period, and it's equidistant from Boston.  Could it somehow steal away the next cohort group of young professionals priced out of Boston proper?

Some did not vote for our Mayor, either in the Council election or in the Mayoral election.  The people of the city would be able to speak biennially about his performance anyway, but he has already stated his intention not to run again.  The democratic process that makes him accountable to these "people" whose collective name keeps being invoked is not broken.  The process put him into City Hall, and another process put him at the podium.  Rest assured, come January there will be a new face running the meetings as well as at least one new face seated at a desk.

That is process enough.  That is the day that the people ranting and raving about the placement of a statue will "have theirs."

In the meantime, let's leave the tactics reminiscent of banana republics, tinpot dictatorships, and two-bit despots to the places that many of us LEFT in order to come live in this country and this city.

Forget what we deserve.  We ARE better than that.  Let's show it.  

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