Biff America: Bad feelings over new blood
Some could call it a round table of hypocrisy; the three of us, drinking coffee casting judgment. To a man we were well read, considered ourselves principled and liberal. Come to find out, we were also bigots.
I’m going to change their names to protect the guilty: Tom, Dick and I.
We were all talking about a local businessman who was hoping to import a heretofore minority into our community. It wasn’t as if we didn’t already have a fair amount of that tribe living amongst us. But this entrepreneur was hoping to double or even triple the number so as to facilitate his business.
Tom, who owns his own construction company ” but could arguably be considered the mostly right leaning of our group ” cut to the chase.
He said, “Hey, admittedly my company could not survive without some of them, but I just don’t want this town overridden.” In an attempt to temper his previous statement he added, “Don’t get me wrong, the few I’ve known well are decent people. I’ve even had a few of them in my home, but as a culture they are more comfortable taking than giving back to the community.”
The sheer all encompassing arrogance of his statement would normally have caused me to offer a rebuttal. but there was little of his statement that I could argue with. Before I got the chance to bring those few points to the table, Dick interjected.
“Most of them don’t even pay taxes. Or, if they do they pay far less, percentage wise, than the rest of us.” Dick continued, “And I’ll tell you this, when I lived in California my town became overrun with them and, due to the changing value of my home, I had to move. It seems when a place gets the reputation as being sympathetic to their needs, where one goes many follow.”
I too have lived in California, so I could not argue with Dick. Instead I added an observation of my own: “OK, I agree to a point. Yes, they don’t seem to assimilate into a community, and yes, they demand special treatment and services but I don’t believe for a minute that all of them are like that. Don’t you think by painting them with such a broad brush we are not only showing our lack of tolerance but also denying our town the diversity they can bring to it?”
My friends were not to be placated.
“Bull!” yelled Tom. “Let them move in next to you and then tell me what that does to your neighborhood. Listen Jeffrey, I don’t mean to sound close minded, but it galls me that this business-guy is trying to change the balance of our town to line his own pockets. I bet he doesn’t really care about those people ” he just cares about their money.”
Yet again, I found myself agreeing. I like my community as it is. I’m happy to welcome some new blood but only to a point.
So there, I’ve said it, I have a prejudice against rich people.
The front page headline said it all: “Local Realtors hope to attract celebrities to prove the value of our mountain real estate.”
Upon closer examination the “local realtor” lives in Florida and of the four “celebrities” mentioned only one of them had I heard of. No matter ” the front page article was the subject of much attention around town that day. Most people I talked to had similar opinions as Tom, Dick and I. There seems to be a general sense of outrage that some out of state carpet bagger would presume to, like a knight, ride in on his white Escalade in hopes of saving our town from the pains of obscurity. I doubt very much anyone ” other than the developer’s ” life will be enriched if and when celebrities discover what the rest of us already know; this is a wonderful place to call home.
Personally, I’m less concerned with my neighbor’s wealth and fame than I am with whether they own a tow-strap or have a ladder I can sometimes borrow.
Could it be that our mountains would be more magnificent, our towns more charming and our relationships with our friends and neighbors more profound if we shared our community with the rich and famous? No, but to be fair, I’m not sure it would be any less so.
So, in that spirit and the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to offer this olive branch to any rich and famous people who are reading this; you are welcome to move here. We will extend the same courtesies to you as we do to all our neighbors. You don’t have to worry that we will treat you any differently. We will judge you on your character and not your wealth and fame.
That in itself might be a welcome change.
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