Why Does Shirley Leung Hate Boston So Much?
In an open letter to the United States Olympic Committee in Friday’s edition of the Globe, columnist and noted Walmart superfan Shirley Leung assumes the representative power bequeathed to her by the Greater Boston area’s 4.7 million residents and apologizes for our boorish behavior as of late: “You may think Bostonians don’t want to host the Olympics, but then you don’t know Boston.”
Let’s get this straight: Neither does Shirley Leung.
Smashed onto the front page of the Globe’s fishwrap, Leung manages to shoehorn all the hackneyed trappings of a New York Times Boston-trolling piece—i.e., references to the Revolutionary War, successful sports teams, the Big Dig, harsh winters—into a 597-word insult to the people of Boston. How dare we raise questions regarding what would be the largest civic undertaking in the city’s nearly 400-year history? Then she goes on to compare Boston, unfavorably, to the entire state of Colorado: home of the USOC—and, y’know, weed!
Out where you are in Colorado, everyone is so damn happy. You and your 300 days of sunshine. And now all that legalized marijuana makes everything oh so groovy…Rocky Mountain High we are not. We get a kick out of knocking people down, putting everyone in their place when they get too big, too successful, too soon. If the Games were ever held here, revenge would be an Olympic sport.
Shirley Leung’s Boston is not a perpetual Phish concert, no—instead it’s a perennially overcast Thunderdome, in which the few good and honest men are flung into a Savin Hill hole, never to be heard from again, as those knaves from the State House News Service chortle bloodlessly.
At this point, you’re probably saying to yourselves: What on God’s green earth is this place they call Boston? It looks like something out of a gladiator movie. How fast can we move our five-ring circus to LA?
What exactly resembles a gladiator movie, Shirley? The folks at the Dorchester Reporter and the Boston Herald, as well ordinary citizens armed with only broken public-records laws, working tirelessly to keep elected officials and bid organizers honest? Or perhaps the man who bears striking resemblance to Mayor Marty Walsh’s union organizer cousin verbally berating a woman expressing concern for the displacement of the city’s low-income residents at a community meeting earlier this week?
What Leung appears to take the greatest exception to is democracy, a process with which Boston has a small bit of history. Leung would much rather the citizens of Boston run along with Mr. Thatcher, no questions asked, than cock an eyebrow at the upstanding, well-coiffed men of Bain Capital.
Seriously, your first instincts were right — an old city reborn, the world capital of life sciences, a walkable and affordable Games…But before that, we will throw tantrums like 2-year-olds. Maybe it looks like a freak show to you. To us, it’s all normal.
Try to wrap your mind around the fact that sentient humans have paid actual money, which can be exchanged for goods and services, to compensate Leung for sentences like this:
Our Olympic naysaying can be heard ’round the world, but it can only make the Boston bid better. We like to put people and their ideas through the wringer. And we save the sharpest knives for outsiders swooping in and trying to tell us what to do with our city.
Welcome to Boston.
If skepticism, crudely reduced to “naysaying” and “squawking” by Leung, will make the bid better, why is she crucifying the skeptics? It’s probably too much to ask that her column make any kind of sense. But let’s unpack this: Leung notes the bid’s pallid public support, which sank to 36 percent in March. And she blames this on our collective “PTSD after suffering through more than 100 inches of snow this winter,” which she thinks Bostonians loved, because it gave them “a whole new vein of complaints.” Never mind the startling lack of sensitivity for the many Bostonians who are actually suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder: How can Leung gaze upon the the damaged infrastructure, the lost wages, the collapsed roofs, the hungry children who rely on the free or reduced-priced lunches served at their long-closed schools and assert without tongue firmly in cheek that any Bostonian enjoyed it?
It’s not until late in the piece that Leung deigns to acknowledge the enormous questions yet to be answered by Boston 2024, and the huge shadow of debt that could result from the bid. Oh, you miserly Bostonians. There you go, with your silly fears of billion-dollar cost overruns. Where in the world would you find a precedent for that kind of thing, right?
Now much of the squawking about the Summer Games comes from the lack of a solid plan from Boston 2024, the privately held group organizing the region’s bid. Stingy Bostonians also worry that taxpayers will be on the hook if costs go over budget.
When Leung uses the pronoun “we” to express support and apologize for all the hemming and the hawing, are we to assume she speaks for 36 percent of us? Seems generous. The people of Boston—whose lives will be irrevocably changed by the Games should the bid succeed—deserve better than to be characterized as a bunch of ornery, drunk uncles to be shooed away when company arrives, and they certainly deserve a better spokesperson than Shirley Leung.