Sunday, July 25, 2010

Manhattan Illinois Mayor Borgo demonstrates why there is a Tea Party

The Joliet Herald News ran an article on July 25, 2010 headlined "Metra SouthWest Line Keeps Saturday Service."  The article discussed funding for Saturday service on the Metra SouthWest Line.  The article also discussed the recession's impact on ridership, and then quoted Manhattan Mayor Bill Borgo as such:

"In the meantime, Manhattan Mayor William Borgo, who along with other mayors along the southwest corridor lobbied for Saturday service, said Manhattan's Metra station is a key piece of the tiny town's long-term planning. On any given day, about 40 cars can be spotted parked in the Metra lot, he said.

"When you get a Metra station, it means you've kind of arrived. You're no longer considered in the boonies," Borgo said. "No doubt as the years progress, this (line) will continue to thrive and to expand, and 30 years from now they'll say, 'Gosh, do you remember when only 40 cars parked here every day?' "

No longer considered "the boonies"?  Why use such an unaffectionate term for Rural America?  It is little comments like these from politicians that make people feel the people in charge are out of touch with the everyday lives of regular people.  The boonies?  It's Rural America.  It's our history.  It's Manhattan! Manhattan was since its inception a small community surrounded by farms.  Things have changed, yes, and many new developments have been built in the past decade, but using a term such as "the boonies" gives the impression one does not know or does not appreciate the area's agricultural past.  It gives the impression one does not understand the people who live in "the boonies."  

It gives the impression one can not see what is great about "the boonies", such as open space, birds, history,  fresh air, a slower pace of life and more.  Just as if one were to use a disparaging generalization for a city, it could give the impression one can not see what is great about cities, such as museums, history, cool buildings, interesting restaurants and more.  

The mayor's "boonies" comment reminds me of a recent column regarding admission to elite colleges in The New York Times. Columnist Ross Douthat wrote: 

 "while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances. Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or “Red America.”"

Is that true?  Who knows.  I thought of this very quote, however, when I read Borgo's "boonies" statement.  Again, articles and columns such as these may make citizens feel they could be perceived by elected officials or admission officials differently because of where they live, where they went to high school, or whether they decided to participate in 4-H.  (Just for the record, I think 4-H is great!  Just check out these projects by Will County 4-Hers at their Summer Show.  4-H is one of the only organized options for leadership, learning, and fun outside of school for many rural students, so it seems very unfair to "incline against" these kids)

I'm not saying I agree with the Tea Party, or any political party for that matter.  I like many people am an independent voter (although I had a lot of warm feelings when I saw the float of a Green Party candidate at the recent Beecher, Illinois Independence Day Parade because they at least made their position on an important issue--the use of eminent domain by the State of Illinois for the "Peotone Airport" --loud and clear).

As an independent voter, I am tired of the little comments, whether it is a mayor of a small town using the word "boonies" in a negative way, or someone at a Town Hall meeting shouting over other people.   Whether you agree with the Tea Party or not, the Tea Party's gatherings show some people are unsatisfied with their government, and I think these little comments are at least a small reason for that unhappiness. 

To end things on a lighter note, Borgo's "boonies" comment reminded me of Dwight Schrute's impersonation of his rival Jim on The Office.  Dwight, of course, is from a rural background, and in his imitation of Jim, mocks Jim's tendency to make a "little comment".  Would Dwight be offended by Borgo's "boonies" comment?  Make your own comment in the comments section: