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New York as US writ large (or small)? Essay

Is New York City the United States writ (made) small or is the United States NYC writ (made) large? To the world as well as to many Americans, New York has become a symbolic representation of the United States, a microcosm. Great cities often are identified with their respective nations, and some capital cities even carry the name of their respective countries, as in the case of Mexico City .

Paris is a proud representation of France, where much of the cultural and other treasures of the French people are showcased in its museums and institutions, as well as in the collective refinement and intellectual and artistic and philosophical traditions of the French Parisians. Surname 2 A country’s most important city normally becomes the vibrant cultural and philosophical microcosms of the nation, owing to its mix of people. As such, these mega-cities tend to be microcosms of the various groups, converging in dynamic relationships with other migrants from various parts of the country and the world.

In fact, the fame of New York has transcended national boundaries. It is a tribute to the city that even during the cold war, the Soviet Union had grudgingly accepted NYC as host city of the United Nations, which effectively made New York the UN capital. The irony is that New York, though not the American political and official capital city, is the virtual commercial, financial, and cultural US capital: a national unifier stronger than what its political capital Washington DC can hope to be. And for this prestige, it seems to me that history has rewarded New York its political role as the more effective national symbol..

This is again another historical irony. After the Civil War, New York was one of the states that was against a strong central government. At that period, the state was the most progressive for its emergent role as a center of commerce and trade, and it was benefiting from the Union as a center of trade. (Federalist Papers, Chapter 1). Reading the Federalist Papers easily would show that its authors appreciated what the people of New York (city and the state ) believed about their state: that it would Surname 3

anyway become a very wealthy nation on its own, separate from the Union. Instead of taking this parochial view, the founding New York fathers like Alexander Hamilton and company veered their effort towards convincing New Yorkers to go beyond their self-interests. And it was clear they did not go head-on against the popular will. Instead they re-directed the parochial popular will towards a mass appreciation of the benefits of ratifying the US Constitution, which laid down the foundations of a great United States of America.

The efforts eventually paid of and made New Yorkers move from inward-looking toddlers of this political union into converts for the US Constitution. These New Yorkers produced the Federalist Papers as an intellectual effort to convince their people that a united America was in the long term interest of the state, and therefore New Yorkers should support the Constitution. (chapters 1-5). The pioneer New Yorker statesmen who saw beyond the parochial confines of New York adroitly campaigned among their fellow New Yorkers to support the United States Constitution.

For what they did, they had eaten their cake and had it too. The successful campaign in New York helped tremendously in making a strong Federal United States of America, which made New York not just the center of the country, but the financial capital of a superpower, with global leadership as well. Surname 4 Retrospectively when the French government sent Alexis de Tocqueville to the United States in the 1830 and 1835 (first and second releases) to study the US prison systems, he had more findings and wrote them down in his now classic Democracy in America.

In this book he saw the dangers of popular democracy with the rule of an arrogant ignorant majority. He even foresaw the American Civil War, as well as the eventual rise of the United Sates as superpower, rivaled by Russia. He saw the potential low points of American democracy : uninformed public opinion, the tyranny of majority, conformity for the sake of material gain, intellectual bankruptcy because of the downward pressure of the unlettered and uninformed.

Democracy in America saw the judgment of the wise giving in to mass ignorance and prejudice. Tocqueville predicted that American democracy would someday show its ugly head. All that said and over time, New York helped prevent democratic excesses. I believe its cosmopolitan ambience and multi-ethnic population naturally also impacted on the liberalization of its perspective. And the sheer numbers of concentrated intellectuals within its territory helped advance the cause of democracy and equality, and intellectual sophistication. Surname 5

For all its virtues and no matter how important NYC is to the United States as its Big Apple, not even our biggest city can really eclipse the equally rich diversities of the many states NYC whose immigrants it hosts in its confines. Virginia has its own distinctions and charm, and so do California, Hawaii, Texas, and all other states. After all even if New York City is the epitome of urban American representation– in that very aspect, the impossibility of representing rural America is also inherent. Clearly then it is inaccurate to favor a description of New York as United States

writ small, or the opposite: that the United States is New York writ large. The truism is that no matter how representative, a part cannot be lgreater than the whole of which it is part. Indeed whenever I visit the various landmarks of the city, for example, the Metropolitan Museum which has replaced the Louvre of Paris as the western reference point for modern art, or the Statue of Liberty, a landmark that can stand side by side Paris’ Tour Eiffel, when I walk down Broadway and savor its artistic ambience, my pride as an American is the more invigorated.

New York has significant contributions to America’s greatness, from which it undoubtedly also benefited being the American virtual capital city. But the relationship is symbiotic: the city also derived its strengths from the diversity and the cultural, financial, and other resources of the Federal Republic and the world. References and Cited Works Jackson , Kenneth T. (ed. ) (1995). The Encyclopedia of New York City, Yale University Press.

The Library of Congress. The Federalist Papers. Retrieved 11- 22- 2008. http://thomas. loc. gov/home/histdox/fedpapers. html http://www. foundingfathers. info/federalistpapers/ Lawrence,George (translator) Tocqueville. Democracy in America. New York: Perennial Classics, 2000. “The Newest New Yorkers, 2000″. New York City Department of City Planning (2004). Retrieved on 11-28-2008, NYC. gov – Official website of New York City


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