[On September 28th, 2002 the great Patsy Mink passed away. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy Mink and four other Asian American leaders, past and present!]
On one example of the worst of 2022 America and so much of the best when it comes to Boston’s exciting new mayor.
First things first: I’m never going to be able to write about Michelle Wu’s successful 2021 campaign for mayor of Boston with anything even vaguely approaching objectivity. Wu was the first political figure about whom my older son got really excited—his high school requires community service hours for graduation, and he’s a deeply committed young environmentalism and climate change activist so during the summer after 9th grade he began volunteering with the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM). ELM had endorsed Wu’s campaign, and much of his volunteering thus became canvasing and manning tables for Wu for Boston; he even had the chance to meet and chat with her after one such event in Roslindale (the Boston neighborhood where she lives with her family). To say that the election of Wu as mayor was a big deal in the Railton household would thus to be significantly understate the case, and we haven’t been the slightest bit disappointed as she has begun her first term this past year.
I wish I could say the same for all Boston residents, however. One of the big stories of Wu’s first year in office were the seemingly constant, aggressively loud and angry anti-mask/anti-vaccine protests that took place outside of her Roslindale home. While I can’t say I have much understanding of or patience for anti-maskers or anti-vaxxers (two communities who together have unquestionably and frustratingly prolonged and worsened this pandemic), of course I support their fundamental, profoundly American rights to hold their own opinions and express their own points of view. I also believe that protest is not only a vital part of our American political and social life (and always has been), but in my book Of Thee I Sing I define it as one of the most consistent forms of both active and critical patriotism across our histories. But the protests outside of Wu’s house were expressly designed to intimidate her into giving in to their demands, and in so doing (indeed, as the main way of so doing) to bother her young children, her neighbors, the whole community with their purposefully excessive noise and disturbance. I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be allowed to do so (until and unless they break any laws), but I find these protests a reflection of the worst of America in 2022 nonetheless.
Fortunately, Wu hasn’t let that small group of aggrieved assholes derail her goals and plans for Boston, and indeed she’s had an inordinately active and successful first year in office. In keeping with what got my son connected to her in the first place, much of that has been linked to environmental and climate change activism, from the launch of an overarching Green New Deal for the Boston Public Schools to groundbreaking specific proposals like eliminating the use of all fossil fuels in new construction projects for the city. But maybe my favorite Mayor Wu effort to date has been the successful piloting of free public transit in the city—the most prominent story about the MBTA this year has been a continuation of the longstanding clusterfuck (pardon my French, but it’s the only word that works here) that is the T; but Wu is looking not only to change that narrative, but to reframe our entire conversation around public transportation, a conversation that will be absolutely crucial if cities are going to help fight climate change as we move forward. I couldn’t be prouder that my son is so connected to this innovative and inspiring Asian American leader.
September Recap and a new Guest Post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Other Asian American lives or stories you’d highlight?