Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Consequences of Small Town Hate
In the city of Albert Lea, Minnesota, there are trailer courts where people on the fringes of the economy live and work and try to do better for themselves.
We tend to have a view of trailer courts as "tornado magnets" or "skid row," depending on how you look at the people who get a lot and put a trailer house on it and try to live their lives. It is inherently elitist to view the people who live there as being permanently poor or lazy; there are always going to be people who choose to give up and stop trying. But, by and large, a trailer house is a stepping stone to other things. This is how people do things, and, given our economy, who can blame them?
I don't remember much about Rainbow Terrace, other than that it exists on the southern edge of Albert Lea. I'm sure that I knew people who lived there; I seem to remember visiting this place in the 1980s. How it was then does not stand out to me. I do believe that you can't judge people who live in places like this because people are always moving up or moving down, not because of some fatalistic plan but because luck and fortunes change and the vast majority of our fellow citizens do work hard and try. Only a handful really seem to surrender to their laziness and stop trying. Given our media, you'd think this nation is nothing but a paradise for loafers. If that were true, even for an instant, America wouldn't look anything like it does.
This particular trailer court is now square in the sights of the Federal Government, and not for any of the right reasons:
The article, which is excellent and details a great deal more than you would normally expect from a small town newspaper, reads like a litany of ignorance and hate. I don't know who Mary Ann Jensen is, but she sounds like just about the most ignorant cracker you'd ever expect to find in Albert Lea. She must walk around with Mal Prinzing's business card sticking out of her craw.
There are consequences for hating people. Hating Mexicans, or people who have come here to work and get a leg up in this world, is fashionable right now. Albert Lea is virtually roiling with this hate and intolerance. It's as if someone were about to empty out the trunks in the attics all over town and produce those Klan robes I heard so much about when I was growing up. Albert Lea has some issues with race and tolerance that have not really been solved by the modern world and by things called books, facts, knowledge and common sense.
It is a fact that it is illegal to discriminate against people because of their race, creed, or color. It is a fact known to virtually every adult and child in America. You'd have to be the stupidest person alive to not know this--hello, Mary Ann, your bus to stupid town has a seat up front for you, hon. Enjoy the ride and try to not look so dumb, okay?
If you're in business, you know this. But, here, in the environs of a small town in the middle of Southern Minnesota, you had a property manager charged with overseeing a property licensed to accommodate trailer homes, who thought she could get away with running her flapping gums about lazy, drunk Mexicans and who actually, truly believed in her heart of hearts that it was perfectly okay, in America, circa 2012, to carry out an active and vocal policy of telling a Hispanic woman that she couldn't live there because of her ethnicity.
Never mind the fact that everyone is different and that a hell of a lot of people with Mexican heritage come here, raise families, obey the law, pay taxes, and live as well as everyone else; never mind the facts or the statistics. Just go with your gut and hate, right?
How goddamned stupid do you have to be in order to think that this is a perfectly okay thing to do? And then to run these statements by the investigators, hoping that they would have a sympathetic ear and chime in with their own horror stories about the damned brown people? Pathetic.
Well, Mary Ann Jensen and the people she represented and worked for are exactly that goddamned stupid and now the Federal Government is going to rain misery down upon these ignorant, racist backwoods asses.
This is not how you want your home town to appear to the outside world; even though it isn't fair and doesn't really represent how the town actually is, Albert Lea is now the capital of Hating On Mexicans in Minnesota and in the upper Midwest. A litany of racially charged incidents, hate crimes and now a full-blown, what-the-hell-were-you-thinking Federal case makes it clear that this small town has a huge problem.
But, then again, maybe the people who live there want to be known for hate and intolerance. Maybe that's how they can explain why there are no jobs, why no one wants to relocate there and why no one can make a business operate. Maybe that's the way they want to live. Maybe we've found a whole town that wants to give in to ignorance and give up.
I would like to think otherwise, but when things like this happen, what can you do?