The story of the two Coopers who met over bird-watching and dog-walking in New York’s Central Park is the viral story of virus pandemic, lockdown, frustration, and narcissism. It’s simultaneously serious yet fundamentally unserious, at once a gripping tale, yet one without a true protagonist to root for. There is no Dark Knight or supervillain, just a couple of minions doing their minion thing. We’ll argue about it endlessly, blog and tweet, and pick our banners and pitchforks and make it A Thing. It’s a Racism Thing. It’s a Social Media Thing. It’s a Just Following Orders thing. And all that.
By now you know the story. Two people named Cooper, unrelated to each other as far as anyone knows, met in Central Park by happenstance. Both Coopers have well-paying New York jobs. Amy Cooper, white female, was walking her dog off its leash in the Rambles. Dogs must be on their leashes at all times in that part of the park. Christian Cooper, black male, was bird-watching in that part of the park. He sees the dog, confronts Amy about the leash, she makes an excuse, he says she “won’t like” what he does next, and tries calling the dog over with a treat.
Then she tries to upend his life and ends up upending her own. She calls police and screechingly Karens* them to come arrest him as a “black male threatening a white female” in the park.
Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm
— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020
He hadn’t threatened her. But he had baited the dog. She overreacted. He took video of the confrontation and he and his sister posted it to social media, it went viral, she apologized and got fired from her well-paying but soulless job at an investment company, she lost the dog, and I’m looking again at reasons I don’t love New York.
It’s not that I dislike all big cities. I lived in Tokyo for years, loved it and still consider it my second hometown. But Tokyo tends to be clean and safe and not in your face. The trains can get too crowded, the traffic can be insane, but it’s not leering at you and bragging about how great it is all the time. Tokyo bows to you respectfully. The ramen is mind-blowing.
New York City is…New York City. If I can help it, I’ll avoid ever living there. I’ll make it here and elsewhere but have no interest in trying to make it there, thank you very much.
The biggest tell that Amy Cooper is a liberal isn’t the political donations she or someone else named Amy Cooper made years ago. The biggest tell that she’s a liberal is that she lives in New York City. The second biggest liberal tell is how she views the police. She assumes — just assumes — the police will respond faster to a white woman claiming a black man is menacing her.
Why does she assume this? Because that’s what most liberals think of the police. They think police forces, and law enforcement agencies overall, are full of racists just waiting to come down on brown and black people. You see this in how they discuss the Border Patrol too. They also generally assume our military is full of ne’er do wells who couldn’t get jobs any other way. But they say “Thank you for your service” when they absolutely have to. They also think America’s founding was fundamentally racist, thanks in no small part to New York’s main newspaper. All of this is deeply unlikeable.
To the extent that I have any sympathies in this story, they’re not with anyone who tries a racist smear for no reason and who would knowingly misuse scarce police time and resources to go after someone who isn’t committing a crime. That’s not what the police are for. That’s what Amy Cooper wanted the police to do — harass a man on the false pretext that he is a black man harassing a white woman. That’s just wrong.
And it comes from a liberal’s heart. A conservative or moderate is just not very likely to work from a place in which the police are going to knee-jerk go after a black man as Amy Cooper believes they will. That’s not what we think of the police. We tend to think better of police than that.
Christian Cooper’s case is stronger, but he’s also a bit of a Karen* in this. The dog is off its leash. He pulls out a treat to mess with it, as he says he does when he meets “intransigence” from dog owners like Amy Cooper. He only starts the video when she goes next-level Karen* and tries to involve the police. It’s a Clash of the Karens*.
The 21st century isn’t turning out the way most of us wanted it to. Star Wars sucks. There are no sports. China infected the whole world with a killer virus. And Karens* are frickin’ everywhere. Working from home is looking better every day.
He’s right on the letter of the law. He’s also got the better argument to be annoyed. We’ve all seen dog owners who don’t pick up the poo, who don’t control their pets in public, and so forth. He’s in one of the few places in all of New York City where birdwatching is even possible, and here’s this lady with her dog violating the rules and ruining the moment. Yeah, she’s not coexisting. He’s in the right generally.
The treat thing can be read as a little bit off, though. It’s provocative. But it’s not call the police and waste their time on nonsense provocative. As a nature lover and mediocre wildlife photographer, I’m with him on the annoyance. Just not the remedy. But he’s probably seen dozens of dog owners let their pets romp through unleashed, scaring off the birds and ruining his hobby. Their selfishness shouldn’t become his problem, but it’s New York. Whatareyougonnado?
The whole moment encapsulates Bill de Blasio’s New York pretty perfectly. Hizonner has consciously made himself the vice-Karen*-in-chief (second to Gov. Cuomo). Being a hypocritical nag is his brand. He locked the city down, then he went to the gym. Because his rules don’t apply to him. He urges New Yorkers to tattle on each other. They do. It causes another national moment of angst. Because they try to out-Karen* each other. And because it’s New York and we’re forced to pay attention to New York every ever-loving day whether we want to or not.
Look, there are a lot of reasons people don’t want to live in New York. The Clash of the Karens* is several of them. These people probably both voted for de Blasio more than once. They voted for Bloomberg before him. De Blasio is extremely unlikeable and incompetent, but New York can’t bring itself to elect anyone else. They elect nags. They like nags. They aspire to be better nags. New Yorkers’ nagging goes national.
That’s their problem. In any other chance encounter, the Coopers would probably giggle to each other over how superior they and their city are to everyone and everywhere else. How adorable.
They both deserve Bill de Blasio and they deserve each other, and in the great Clash of the Karens*, I don’t really care.
*With all due respect to actual Karens, who through no fault of their own have seen their name become symbols of America’s 21st -century HOA busybody “I request to speak to your manager,” “Do you know who I am?” culture. I don’t know any real Karens who are social media Karens, but the name seems to have stuck. Sorry.