Commentary: New York Insularity and Midwest Selflessness

The Gopher State’s three Republican U.S. congressmen — Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn and Pete Stauber — recently penned a cordial letter to Gov. Tim Walz about the needs of Minnesotans, encouraging him to “establish guidelines for the responsible, safe and prompt reopening of hospitals and other medical care providers to the general public.” 

A.J. Kaufman

More than a half-million cases and approximately 35,000 coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in the New York City Metro Area. This is a tragedy since COVID-19 likely began spreading there in February, yet Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio failed to take aggressive action.

Instead they waited to impose distancing measures, ignored recommendations from health experts, put lives at risk and allowed the virus to infect the rest of America. Then, desperately seeking a scapegoat, de Blasio blamed Jews, while Cuomo continued to receive underserved adulation.

As of May 12, over 40% of all U.S. cases are in this 20-county metroplex half the physical size of St. Louis County, Minnesota, which has seen only 96 cases.

Even with a recent uptick, Minnesota has 591 total deaths as of this writing, with about 80% occurring in assisted living facilities. Imagine if the Land of 10,000 Lakes had 35,000 fatalities, while metro New York had fewer than 600. Do you think New York City would close its schools, businesses, places of worship and bankrupt hospitals because a “flyover” state” had a health crisis?

I assume with great confidence Cuomo and de Blasio would not put millions out of work and eradicate years of economic growth because of what’s happening somewhere they can’t locate on a map.

And surely the vituperative media, which rarely ventures west of the Appalachians, would not support quarantining much of America if COVID-19 were killing far more people in Minnesota than their beloved Big Apple.

I was born in the nation’s capital, lived briefly in the Empire State, grew up in California, and have lived in Minnesota nearly a decade, so I can confirm much of America does not exist to coastal elites.

I learned this when I finished my first year teaching in Los Angeles and decided to enjoy my time off with a cross-country drive. My friends scoffed; my parents were nervous. Why? Would I meet and talk to people they did not understand? Might some be hillbillies and uneducated schlubs?

I found the two weeks across our nation’s terrain pleasant and the people overwhelmingly gregarious. I did a similar drive again that winter.

During that second trip, I made a decision to leave California. When I moved to the Midwest the following summer, my friends were confused; they seemed convinced I’d come back. One said, “no one does what you did.” A few months later I met my future wife, and 15 years later I’ve not returned.

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman took the opposite route. Raised in the Twin Cities, he fled Minnesota during college and landed in Boston, then lived abroad and, after marrying the heir to a real estate empire, has for several decades resided in a mansion outside Washington, D.C.

Last month, Friedman exposed how insular his views have become when he wrote a bizarre column opposing opening up America during the coronavirus. His concerns are summed up by this parochial attitude:

“What if I get on the subway and the person next to me is not wearing gloves and a mask?”

Oh, good heavens.

The subway is an obvious vector for coronavirus. Like many in the heartland, I enjoy car culture. Akin to most Americans, when I go on a road trip or run errands, it’s by vehicle, not a jam-packed train. There’s a reason New York City continues to see a decline in people and small businesses fleeing.

Yet since well-heeled charlatans like Friedman live in a bubble and apparently travel in germ incubators, a Minnesota accountant or Texas shop owner shouldn’t be permitted to secure a livelihood?

It’s not abstruse to understand how attitudes in Minnesota, which marked 162 years as a state yesterday, are different from Gotham.

The Gopher State’s three Republican U.S. congressmen — Tom Emmer, Jim Hagedorn and Pete Stauber — recently penned a cordial letter to Gov. Tim Walz about the needs of Minnesotans, encouraging him to “establish guidelines for the responsible, safe and prompt reopening of hospitals and other medical care providers to the general public.”

Compare that to New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. His focus, instead of gratitude for healing his devastated city, was to kick out Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian group providing free medical aid to citizens via construction of a field hospital in Central Park.

“Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers,” he tweeted during a series of rants.

So Johnson is willing to allow others to endure pain for the sake of ideological politics? Sadly, even a global pandemic can’t stop repugnant wokeism.