Opinion

Don’t Let ‘Treeson’ Drive You Out of New York City

The Christmas tree went up in smoke within minutes early on Wednesday morning, a fiery blaze of artificial boughs raging outside the Fox News headquarters in Midtown.

An arrest has been made, and according to The Times, “the police said they believed that he was homeless and were investigating whether drugs or mental illness had played a factor.” Inside the studio, the demise of the Fox Christmas tree struck a nerve: It was more evidence that New York, and maybe America, might be too far gone to be saved. “It is about everything that we stand for as a country,” an anchor said on-air on Wednesday of the tree. “It’s kind of all we have left.”

A few conservatives in this largely liberal town aren’t feeling festive this year. Their neighbors keep voting for Democrats, and some of them are even protesting the police at regular intervals. The de Blasio mayoralty was one long nightmare of wokeness. Liberals have even taken over the Metropolitan Opera!

The difficult trials have driven a pair of famous conservatives to pen essays about why they are leaving New York.

Karol Markowicz, a writer for The New York Post and Fox News, wrote this week that she and her family were leaving partly because New Yorkers were continuing to wear masks outdoors and require children to wear them at school. “We’re going to Florida, a state we’ve come to regard as the beacon of freedom in this country,” she wrote.

Then there’s Sohrab Ahmari, a contributing editor to The American Conservative, whose description of his near decade spent living in New York just made me sad:

“New York City, to my mind, isn’t a megalopolis made up of five enormous boroughs,” he wrote. “Rather, ‘The City’ is a small rectangle with our apartment at its center. In one direction, its outer boundary touches the News Corp. building, where I used to work until recently; in the other direction, it spans the far side of Queensboro Bridge, which I often run across for exercise, barely landing on Long Island City before I race back over the East River to the familiar comforts of Midtown.”

Listen, they say that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But there are some people who just don’t have what it takes. New York City is dirty. It’s loud. Tiny apartments are wildly expensive. The city was hit hard by the pandemic. The national supply chain crisis has led to a cream cheese shortage at bagel shops. (An enduring love affair with bagels is one of a dwindling number of things that can bridge the political divide here.)

But for the sake of diversity — as well as the holiday spirit — I hope conservatives wobbling on New York will tough it out with the rest of us. The city’s recovery is an all-hands project, and a good argument makes us smarter. Sometimes, as the novelist Joan Didion wrote in her essay on leaving New York in 1967, Christmas can be a “difficult season.”

Lighting a Christmas tree on fire didn’t help.

“Treeson!” the front page of The New York Post blared on Thursday. (A replacement Fox News Christmas tree was erected on Thursday evening.)

The original tree was 50 feet high, artificial and festooned with red, white and blue ornaments, a garish mash-up of holiday and patriotic themes. Meghan McCain, who says she doesn’t live in New York City anymore, seemed to suggest its destruction was yet another sign that the city had let itself go. “I don’t want to hear anything about how radical some of you believe republicans to be when there are lunatics running around New York City setting Fox News Christmas tree on fire,” she wrote on Wednesday in a tweet that has since been deleted.

While that isn’t quite how I would put it, it is true that the next mayor, Eric Adams, will inherit a city still recovering from a pandemic and that has real problems, including crime, homelessness and a mental health crisis. Also, no one should ever light a Christmas tree on fire, even if it was tacky.

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