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But maybe you don't care about any of those things. I mean, Koch hasn't been in office for well over two decades and has become better known as the "charismatic cheerleader" that Bloomberg remembers. It's telling that in a city that seems to be ever-changing, New York has only had four mayors in the last 35 years. With such long tenures, of course our mayors become icons—they are as much fixtures in this city as our buildings. However, just because someone is an icon and can give good soundbites, it hardly means that they are worthy of the posthumous circle jerk that accompanies the death of almost every political or public figure.
I am not trying to single Ed Koch out as the only politician who is perhaps unworthy of the adulation heaped upon him after his death. It is an all too common occurrence that makes sense in the way that it made sense to me this morning when I sat in my son's 3rd grade classroom and listened to his teacher advising the students how best to respond to each other's work, which was on display for students and parents alike. "Don't say anything negative," Ms. Milledge recommended. "The work is already done. The time for fixing things has passed. Please only point out the positive things so that we can all feel good about the job we did." This is lovely advice for 3rd-graders, who are usually a bunch of critical assholes. And it is probably not such bad advice for writers, who are also a bunch of critical assholes. The time to be ultra-critical of Ed Koch's—or any dead politician's—failures has passed. His work is already done. But it is a reminder that it is our responsibility, as members of society, to be critical of our politicians as they serve us. It is a reminder not to fall under the sway of a snappy soundbite from a man who failed this city's minorities and under-privileged residents. It reminds me of something my father said when Richard Nixon died and article after article was printed about the good things Nixon had accomplished during his time in office. I asked my father why there wasn't more of a focus on Cambodia or Kent State or even more than a glancing look at Watergate. My father told me, "In public, we mourn the best qualities of the man that was. But in private, we can spit on his grave as much as we want."
Personally, I have no interest in spitting on Ed Koch's grave. He was no Richard Nixon. But he was a very flawed mayor who isn't wholly redeemable just because he wrote funny movie reviews in his later years. The one thing that makes Koch slightly acceptable—to me anyway—is that he was also the "author" of several mystery books that my father gave me as joke gifts in my Christmas stockings. In adventures like "Murder on 34th Street" and "Murder at City Hall", I visited the fictional world of five-term Mayor Ed Koch as he solved murders that the NYPD was ill-equipped to deal with, so they asked him for help. These books can currently be purchased online for about a penny. So, act fast. Because now that Koch is gone, you just know the price might double. Or even triple. So, you know, act NOW.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen