Northern Valley Beacon

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The new racism centered right here at home

The assassination of a government minister of industry in Lebanon added another few stones of despair to the hopeless morass of the Middle East. At some point we have to ask with the psalmist, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" David answers his own question, "The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence." And then he predicts that the lord shall destroy the wicked. But that does not offer much hope for Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and that part of the world which exercises violence and atrocities as a mandate of religious doctrine.

The fact is that what is happening to people in the Middle East makes the Holocaust look like a minor chink in the foundations of human decency. Aside from the horrendous moral and political bungling of the U.S. incursion into Iraq, the Muslim jihad against the world is a massive attack against the foundations of human society. Democracy is certainly a casualty.

As counterproductive as it is economically, the free world may have to set up border fences and isolate itself from the insidious forces that love violence and hate the very soul of peace and good will toward people.

To engage hatred and atrocity is to descend to its level and to allow it to enter in to our own thinking and behavior. The very foundation of peace and good will has been destroyed, and those who advocate it can practice it only on their own.

Because while we are focused on a horrifyingly obscence war, we are losing some battles against hatred in our own back yard. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said when he was asked to respond to a slavery issue a thousand miles away, "Go love thy infant, love thy woodchopper...Thy love afar is spite at home." The seeds of hatred have sprouted and sent their wicked tentacles throughout our own community here in Aberdeen. We should not let the massive atrocities in the middle east misdirect our attention from the malignant forces thriving here at home.

The latest symptom of that malignancy involves a beef plant being planned in Aberdeen. Some people think it will bring stench, noise, and nuisance to the community. Some home owners nearest the plant are suing the promoters for the presumed decline in their property values it will bring. But other people are ranting and raging against the people it might attract.

A loyal correspondent of mine has provided me with reams of discussion from newspaper discussion boards and blog commentaries, and they are full of racist invective. Mostly, they object to the idea of minorities coming to Aberdeen. They assume that the crime rate will soar and the community will turn into a ghetto. Here is an example from a newspaper discussion board:

In some ways I cannot wait until I prove to the blind folks that this beef plant will cause untold misery and damage to the community. It may take some time but just remember all your feel good comments about how we should live together in peace and harmony. Those words will haunt not only you but others who do not have a clue.

While we wait, put bars on your windows, alarms on your house, bullet proof vests for your kids to stop the knife and bullet attacks, anchor down everything you have that is valuable, buy a steering wheel lock and car alarm, and hold on
tight. It is going to be a heck of a ride.

Others attribute the expected rise in crime and cultural devastation to the assumption that the influx of minority will be mostly illegal aliens. Some of the writers cite the experiences of other cities that have had packing plants as evidence that hordes of races with moral defects and criminal agendas will descend upon the town. They cite as evidence the rantings of people from those towns who have their own racist axes to grind.

Actually, the lawsuits against the beef plant may have zoning, property value, and nuisance issues as their pretext, but the speech of many involved very quickly reveals that their real motives deal with people of various colors--particularly those of Latino and Asian backgrounds.

People dismiss the racist tirades and hate as the product of a few people on discussion boards and blogs because they seem to comprise a small minority. Consultants who analyze such matters point out that these voices tend to dominate the discussions they participate in, and that is the real point of significance in examining how a community reacts to racism and hate speech. In the case of the newspaper discussion boards, the presence of such raging without requirements for valid evidence to support the statements and without any kind of editorial remonstrance is a tacit expression of at least part of the community leadership.

While the sectarian violence in Iraq casts a deep, seething shadow on the any prospects for democracy in the middle east, the rumblings of racist and class hatred in Aberdeen are signs that the foundations of democracy and civil government are under siege in our own town.

We can't help but wonder how much the war on Iraq and the moral chaos it has created in the world contributes to the racist, hate-filled mindset in Aberdeen. Whatever the source and occasion for this hatred, it needs to be dealt with. We need to divert our attention away from our global identity and assess just how we are doing here at home.

America seems to be slipping under the tide of malice that is rising in the world.

Dr. Pork Pie--

Drive by the John Morrell plants in Sioux City and Sioux Falls, get out, take a whiff, particularly on a hot summer day, and tell me you want that by your house.

I've represented workers at Morrell. The folks who work there aren't the problem; it's the 19th Century-esque technology these plants still use to kill critters and turn them into hot dogs, et al that is the problem. (Paging Upton Sinclair! Paging Mr. Upton Sinclair! You're needed in Aberdeen.)

Is racism behind some of this? Probably. But the environmental and social problems these plants create in communities are legitmate concerns.

My own personal hypocrosy is that I love the meat these plants produce and I help make these problems possible by my own consumerism. Exhbit A is today, Thanksgiving, and the mass consumption of turkey and ham.

No doubt such proposed plants should not damage the environment and insure that they will make it possible for employees they attract to join the community as contributing rather than parasitic citizens.

My main point is the outright expressions of racism voiced in objection to the plant. The history of Moline, Illinois, shows the vilification heaped upon John Deere when he attracted all those Swedish immigrants to his factories, and we know what social liabilities they all became.
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