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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bloomberg vs. Beethoven

An Open Letter to the Mayor of New York City.
New York's third-term mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

"He, too, then, is nothing better than an ordinary man! Now he will trample on all human rights only to humor his ambition; he will place himself above all others,--become a tyrant!"
--Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of the City Of New York
City Hall (260 Broadway)
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. Mayor:
Today, you declared Nov. 20, 2011 to be "Beethoven Day" in the City of New York. But by your recent actions, Mayor Bloomberg, you have shown yourself to be totally ignorant of the composer in question.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a fiercely independent artist who fought against tyranny. He broke the European system of patronage and "court" composers, eking out a difficult life as a freelance musician. A fierce republican, he famously reacted to Napoleon assuming the title of Emperor by striking the name "Bonaparte" from his symphony No. 3. The work is now known as the Eroica.

Under normal circumstances, "Beethoven Day" would be a great idea. WQXR's clever "Obey Beethoven" campaign has the composer's scowling mug all over the city. Recent performances by the New York Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique have brought the composer's genius to the city's concert halls. And today WQXR has achieved something historic, an all-day marathon of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, played live.

But right now, things in our city are a long way from normal.

Less than one week ago, Mr. Mayor, you ordered a small army of riot police to "clean out" Zuccotti Park, the two-month home base of Occupy Wall Street. Protestors in the park were warned that they had less than one hour to remove all of their property from the Park before the police went in. And we know you ordered it. You went on the air and claimed responsibility for the actions of the police.

The poster for WQXR's "Obey Beethoven" campaign.
© 2011 WQXR/National Public Radio.
When the NYPD went in, they swung nightsticks, slashed nylon tents with razor blades, and attacked protestors. The media was walled out, with fire trucks blocking cameras and reporters from all three papers either arrested, attacked, or kept from covering the actions of the police. City councilman Ydanis Rodriguez was injured and arrested, and incarcerated for almost 24 hours. He identified himself as a city official, and was not allowed to talk to a lawyer.

The worst crime perpetrated against the protest was the partial destruction of the People's Library, a 5000+ volume collection of novels, philosophy, textbooks and even a bound copy of the Torah. The cops dumped these neatly stored books into Department of Sanitation garbage trucks. The trash compactors were activated. Over 2000 volumes were crushed into garbage, destroyed beyond repair. Some have been recovered, but many are badly damaged.

Beethoven's lone opera, Fidelio is another triumph over tyranny. Written in 1804 and revised in 1815, Fidelio is a "rescue" opera: the story of a wrongfully imprisoned nobleman, locked in a deep dungeon by a corrupt prison governor. The prisoner's wife, Leonore, cross-dresses and goes undercover as "Fidelio", an assistant turnkey at the prison. Eventually, her husband is freed and evil is defeated.

Mayor Bloomberg, you have arrested and charged over 1,000 people in your city in connection to the Occupy movement. You have allowed police to use "kettling", pepper spray, night-sticks and L-Rad sound cannons on your citizens. You ordered the large-scale destruction of books and personal property. Despite owning a media company, your police have prohibited journalists from doing their jobs and exercising their Constitutional right to free speech. And you have even had your own politicians, like Mr. Rodriguez, injured and imprisoned, denying them their right to speak to an attorney as guaranteed by Miranda v. Arizona.

Beethoven once said: "What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven." As one of those princes, you are not worthy of him.


Paul J. Pelkonen
Editor, Superconductor.
Brooklyn, NY

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