By JOSH RESNEK
The mayor is many things, but he is not a reader.
This is well known. It doesn’t make the mayor a bad person.
One of the mayor’s honest statements about libraries has followed him during his mayoral career.
“I never passed a library I wanted to go into, during four years of college,” the mayor has said.
It is a phrase that has come back to haunt him.
What did he mean to prove by making such a public announcement?
That libraries don’t interest him, that he personally has very little use for them.
Why should we care?
On his Facebook site last week, a wonderful bit of video theater showed the mayor calling in a book and movie order as part of his effort to bring to the public’s attention the Library-to-Go program.
It was almost a television-style skit.
Without a hint of the bully, the racist, and the non-book-reading mayor who has led the city for 12 years, the skit begins with him calling the library on a split-screen.
Matt Lattanzi, the young good looking lad who is the interim library director – and who shows himself to be a bit of an actor/comedian – is shown picking up the phone.
“I’d like to order up a book, a movie, and a video game,” the mayor begins.
“I’ll need your library card,” the Lattanzi tells the mayor.
The mayor recites his library card number.
Lattanzi, who reads books, unlike the mayor he works for, answered back politely with interest and a smile.
“What would you like?”
The mayor gushes with pride for an instant.
In one of the great, studied, memorized responses in his political career, he replies:
“I want “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The movie I want is “42.” And I want a Mario video game,” he announced to Lattanzi.
Lattanzi writes that down on the computer.
“Yes sir. I’ll fill that order right away. It will be waiting for you in a bag at the library with your name on it. Just come in and get it,” he responds.
The video switches to the mayor walking up the stairs and into the library. A line-up of bags on a shelf at the library showing the mayor’s last name written on it is revealed. Then the mayor appears. He takes the bag like an old pro who has picked up many such bags during a long political life and he disappears.
The video makers must have sought deeper, secret meaning in the skit as the bag is a brown paper bag with a use much better known for illegal gifts given to politicians than books, movies, and video games.
The bit was apparently prepared by his able public relations handlers who took this not just as an opportunity to highlight the Library-to-Go program but to prove the mayor’s enlightened and activist stand for Black people. To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960 by Harper Lee, is often described as the most widely read book about race, rape, and racial injustice. The main character, a lawyer named Atticus Finch is as white as a down South lawyer can be, but he is a hero to the Black community because of his heroism in defending a Black man accused of a rape which he did not commit.
It was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in 1962.
On a personal note, this writer knows something about the book. I have read it several times.
My son, Joseph Resnek, starred as Atticus Finch in the school play during his senior year at Chelsea High School. He went on to Harvard and Harvard Law School. He is now a public defender.
I doubt very much the mayor has read or will read this book or that he could take away from it its message – which is to help him to understand the racism he was unwittingly brought up with and to face the harsh reality of inequality heaped upon Blacks by whites.
As for “42,” well, of all the movies the mayor could have chosen, he picked out a book about the late, great baseball player who broke all the barriers in major league baseball to be the first Black in the big leagues, the late Jackie Robinson.
Maybe the mayor wanted to review the performance by the late Chadwick Boseman, who played Robinson brilliantly.
Or perhaps he wanted to delight in Robinson over- coming the blatant racism he faced in his rise to greatness?
Could it be the movie served as an impetus for the mayor to hire more Black people for positions in city government?
That’s a non-starter.
I believe the mayor requested a “Mario” video game.
I know nothing about video games but maybe the mayor wanted to show his love for the Mushroom Kingdom.