Last week I wrote about Carlos and Carlos, two local heroes whose displays of humanity and good will toward men put us in a great New York holiday spirit.
Unfortunately, other local heroes are getting coal in their stockings this year, courtesy of Scrooge-like politicians in Washington, all of whom happen to be Republican Senators.
But this isn’t a matter of right wing and left wing–it’s about right and wrong.
The James Zadroga Health & Compensation bill would allocate money to treat serious illnesses contracted by 9-11 Ground Zero workers, as well as compensation for families of volunteers who died breathing in the lethal air at the World Trade Center nightmare.
Zadroga was an NYPD officer who was the first to die of respiratory disease attributed to exposure at the site.
The Wall Street Journal (not exactly a bastion of liberalism) recently polled its readers on whether this bill should be passed. Two-thirds voted yes. But Republicans continue to filibuster the bill, saying they won’t even consider it until they have secured tax cuts for the very wealthiest of Americans. First things first, right?
“The idea that tax cuts for millionaires would derail this legislation is simply outrageous and offensive,” said NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Brooklynite T. J. Gilmartin agrees. A tow truck operator who went back and forth hauling destroyed Fire Department vehicles away from Ground Zero and lost 30% of his lung capacity in the process, Gilmartin went down to Washington last week to plead for the two measly votes that would allow the bill to pass.
Breathing hard as he went back and forth across Capitol Hill, Gilmartin said most Senators acted decently to him, although they all stuck to the Party line.
Then he sought out John McCain.
“They wouldn’t let me in to see him,” recounts Gilmartin. “Then I happened to catch a glimpse of McCain waiting for an elevator in the Rotunda. I hurried over, introduced myself and asked for his help. He huffed ‘Thank you for your service, but I can’t help you.’ If his eyes were daggers, I would be dead. I had thought more of McCain, but he was pathetic.”
McCain’s spokeswoman denies this, saying he was simply “extremely busy” and on his way to a hearing, where McCain would fight to deny the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that bans gays from serving openly in the military.
As this was happening, a burial was being held for Kevin Czartoryski, the latest to die among those who helped sift through the debris at the toxic Ground Zero site. A former New York City police detective, Czartoryski served as the police department’s liaison to the gay community. He was 46.
Meanwhile, James Zadroga’s father Joseph said voting down the bill named after his son made him “embarrassed for the nation.”
There’s still a slim chance that the measure might pass, although as I write this, our heroes have been left dangling in the wind. So let’s all make a wish for a holiday miracle: That justice be served, and that both sides get what they deserve.
(check out the Black Swan movie review on the Arts page, as well as the latest Sports tab)