Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Grand Old Daily Bee

Hello everyone!

Sometimes I waste time. I meant to use my lunch break as an opportunity to get caught up on my readings for class, but that didn't happen. Instead, I got sucked into reading the online version of the Bonner County Daily Bee.

For those of you who don't know, this is the local newspaper for a town in Idaho called Sandpoint, which is where I lived for almost eight years before moving to Oregon. It's where I met Cathy and many of the close friends that I've had for years. It's also where my parents, grandma, and my sister and her family live, as well as where Cathy's parents live. So basically, although I wasn't born there and never went to school there as a kid, I pretty much consider it my hometown.

But there's a sort of strange ideology there, and I'm going to try to describe it as best as I can. It's a sort of "libertarian-isolationist" ideology. The area is overwhelmingly white and Christian, like most rural areas. But the people there are generally really big on privacy, (or at least used to be) which is how the Aryan Nation asshats ended up there for so long. As long as they stayed in their remote compound, kept to themselves, and didn't harass anyone, most of the locals didn't care.

Now that's fine if you just wanted to live in a cabin in the woods and grow pot (which a lot of people did, and I'm sure still do). But because the area is somewhat geographically isolated, and I'd add because there were no colleges there (the main reason I moved to Oregon in the first place), racism among the locals developed differently. In fact, I wouldn't even call it racism, but more like xenophobia. In places like California, white racists tend to look at poor people of color and think there is something inherently wrong with them, whereas there really are hardly any people of color in Idaho, and so the ones who aren't racists that moved up from California are simply xenophobes. They like North Idaho the way it is, and anyone different who shows up is trying to change their home. For this reason, many locals hate rich tourists or transplants, Californians in particular, or any other outsiders. A person of color is clearly an outsider since there are hardly any who live there. Apart from a few exceptions, the only time North Idahoans see people of color is when they watch TV. But they hear horror stories about them from the transplants.

The point to all this is that this attitude often shows up in the newspaper under the letters to the editor. In the online version, there's a space at the end of the letter to leave comments. Sometimes I comment, and sometimes I don't. Today's paper featured a letter that was so ridiculously racist, I had to comment. However, my comment included a pejorative term (only because it was part of an official US policy name), so who knows if they'll publish my comment. Anyway, here's the text of the letter followed by my comments:
Illegal immigration has tremendous cost
Posted: Thursday, Apr 24, 2008 - 09:17:05 am PDT

This is in response to March 18 letter on immigration.
Dear liberals (not the middle-of-the-road Democrats); the subject is illegal immigration:

What is it that you don’t understand about the word “illegal?” I agree with the person who said go to Los Angeles, Arizona, Texas and other states that are suffering from the burden of illegal immigrants.

Would someone tackle that single question with honesty. Don’t put a spin on it; our society is going to crumble under the huge negative impact of illegals.

These immigrants are certainly voting (illegally) Democratic so they can get all the free health, schools, jobs, bringing us down to their level — a third world country. Our history years ago would only let in immigrants that would bring something worthwhile; they were educated or trained to work in our society.

Long gone are the days when we can allow all of the worlds poor into the US. We are running out of resources for our own children.

Why don’t you read what you write, then actually think about what your saying! Rome fell and so can we. My guess is those who really think that it is a good idea to allow illegals into the U.S. also have an agenda of their own; me me me maybe?

I’m disappointed in some of my fellow Americans, you certainly have not traveled to the other countries that are trying so badly to get in the U.S. We can’t bring all those poor people into our country. What do you want for your own children; poverty? These are sad times and it is because of the very left liberals not the middle-of-the-road Democrats who are clueless and dangerous to the U.S. By the way, right wing conservatives are no better than you lefties! Do you really want America to be a third world country?


Priest River
My response:
This country's immigration history has most certainly not been about "immigrants that would bring something worthwhile." On the contrary, it has been a series of some of the most blatantly racist policies in our country's history of blatantly racist policies. Look up the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, The Immigration Act of 1924 and the National Origins Formula, and Operation Wetback (yes, they actually called it that) just for starters.

Once you learn about our history of racist immigration policies, you can move on to our history of exploitation of people in poor countries, particularly in Latin America. You should study NAFTA and the effects of American subsidized corn and how it devastated Mexico's agriculture industry. Then you can read about the American-owned Maquiladora factories that opened in the border towns and how many of the millions of Mexican people who moved there for jobs and suddenly found themselves out of work when China was able to do it cheaper. You can research about the indigenous Mexican people who were kicked off their farm lands by American corporations because they didn't have "legal documentation" that they owned it, despite the fact that their ancestors lived there for thousands of years. I'm sure you could no doubt find hundreds of other examples of American officials and businesses exploiting Mexicans and other Latin Americans and/or meddling with Latin American governments, including the CIA overthrowing or trying to overthrow democratically-elected regimes simply because they won't do business with American corporations.

Or you could just ignore all this and continue to foolishly blame immigrants for all your problems. After all, victims are much easier to blame than the perpetrators, especially if blaming the perpetrators involves looking in the mirror.

It's easy to talk about how aghast you are that someone would break a law when that law benefits you and punishes them, when that law provides you rights and opportunities but not them, and the only difference between you and them is that you were lucky enough to be born on this side of the border and they were unlucky enough to be born on that side.
I'm sure that posting this comment won't change anyone's mind, but at least they can't keep falling back on ignorance as an excuse. Still, it really frustrates me when people measure others based on themselves while completely ignoring how much of an advantage they have.

Unfortunately, I just put myself at a disadvantage by doing all this because I'm still behind on my readings for school. I better get to it.


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Blogger The New Arch Druid's take on the news said...

Dave Oliveria happened to provide a link to this site and so I visited it for a reason, to see what you had said. I don't disagree with you. In that governments and business interests that pushed NAFTA or even CAFTA did so at the expense of the working class. The working class that has to include the American middle class who are facing the loss of good jobs through outsourcing. The working poor who are now having to compete with illegal aliens. No one is benefiting obviously. But the letter from this woman in Sandpoint is the letter of a woman who is very fearful. I can understand such fear. We are facing some truly desperate times economically and trying to deal with a government that as headed by GW doesn't seem to give a damn. No, the woman isn't a "racist" if she were economically more secure, probably such a letter would not have been written. But this letter you decided to show case on this blog vindicates what Senator Obama had to say about rural white "Christian" Pennsylvanians. People who become "bitter" when they face real financial insecurity and go around looking for scapegoats. In many ways, this woman is unfortunately right. The business interests are interested only in "profits" that come at yours, mine and the illegal alien's expense.

8:10 AM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...


I would say that this lady falls more on the xenophobic side than the racist side, though it's tough to tell from one letter. Still, the attitude that "Since they're poor in Mexico, if they come here, we'll all end up poor" smacks of ignorance to say the least. But I would argue that her letter goes beyond ignorance because she infers that the social and economic structures in Mexico are not what keep Mexican people poor, but that it must be something in their character as an ethnic group. She must believe this to be true since she claims they'd still be poor if they were to come here.

Mexican poverty is apparently contagious, too. It's the same sort of "There goes the neighborhood" mentality that white people used to have (and many probably still do) toward blacks moving into their suburban cul-de-sacs.

I'm well aware that unregulated free trade agreements such as NAFTA hurt American workers, too. But it's just as unfair to blame Mexicans or any other Latin American citizens for the treaties as it is to blame US citizens. We didn't get to vote on NAFTA or CAFTA, and our government is much more democratic (in theory) than theirs is.

Yes, I do agree with Obama's comment, and I'm well aware that the only reason it was considered "a gaffe" was because he was being honest, and honesty can get you in trouble in politics. I'm also well aware of the irony of New York Times and DC beltway types claiming that Obama doesn't understand poor, rural people. Please. Cable news commentators and Times columnists are as far removed from anything rural and blue collar as one can get.

Thanks for the comment.


9:09 AM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Nathan Empsall said...

I live in Coeur d'Alene, and like Druid, found your page through Dave Oliveria. Unlike Druid, I *do* disagree with you. Your substance - the privacy-minded libertarian views of North Idaho - is true enough, but you are way off base when you say "most of the locals didn't care."

Every year, when the Aryans marched through Coeur d'Alene, there were large countermarches and angry letters to the editor. This community cared, it cared deeply, but it didn't have the resources or legal justification to stand up to the Aryans. The Aryans attack on the Keenans provided that justification, and LOCAL attorney Norm Gissell teamed up with the Southern Poverty Law Center to ride the bastards out on a rail.

Please, learn about Gissell and his wife, about Father Bill Wassmuth, about businessman Marshall Mend, about professor Tony Stewart. There are some real local heroes, and the community was behind them every step of the way. Admittedly, when you get up towards the smaller towns like Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint, they were farther removed from the Aryans compound and had less to do with the story, so perhaps they cared less. But trust me, Coeur d'Alene and Hayden cared very, very much.

11:18 AM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Nathan Empsall said...

You might be interested in this book.

11:19 AM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

Hello Nathan!

I'll admit saying they didn't care was a poor choice of words. Still, I maintain there was this attitude among most of the people I came in contact that as long as they kept to themselves and didn't harass anyone, it was better to just ignore them. Perhaps I should have said, "most of the locals tolerated them."

The Bonner County Human Rights Task Force did excellent work, and I'm sure the Kootenai County Task Force did the same, don't get me wrong. But it wasn't until Richard Butler kicked the bucket and they lost all their money on lawsuits that what was left of them actually left town. So yes, the lawsuits were certainly a major factor in the group's demise, but the group also imploded on itself. Of course, any group founded on such ridiculous ideals is doomed to fail from the start.

Thanks for the comment.


12:05 PM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

BTW, your link was cut off. Could you post it again?

12:06 PM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Nathan Empsall said...

Rob, maybe folks up in Sandpoint tolerated them, but that was not the case in Coeur d'Alene, and I think it's unfair to use Bonner County's inaction to describe the way the locals acted, given that CDA is bigger and was closer to the Aryans. CDA is more representative and more relevant when talking about North Idaho in general.

And while you're right that internal implosion mattered as much as anything, in the end it really is up to the group whether or not to leave. If you hide in the woods and stick by your guns, it doesn't matter what the locals say or do, you're not going anywhere. It's your call, not theirs.

12:32 PM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Nathan Empsall said...

Let's try putting the link in HTML. It's a book.

12:35 PM, April 25, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

I can't argue with that, Nathan. Thanks for the comments and thanks for the link.


1:33 PM, April 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI -- I live in Sandpoint. Before he "left town", Vincent Bertollini was my neighbor. Seriously, he was one of the BEST neighbors we've had -- really.

7:51 AM, April 26, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI -- I live in Sandpoint. Before he "left town", Vincent Bertollini was my neighbor. Seriously, he was one of the BEST neighbors we've had -- really.

7:52 AM, April 26, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:35 AM, April 26, 2008  
Blogger Rob said...

Hello Anon!

I can relate to that. Years ago when I lived in Wisconsin, I had the best neighbor a person could ask for. He kept to himself for the most part and would invite us and the other neighbors over for dinner parties all the time. Man, that guy could cook! His name was Jeffrey Dahmer.


9:36 AM, April 26, 2008  
Blogger RVB59 said...

A little late to the party but all of you are missing the point. You are all hell bent on the destruction of our race and don't seem to give a care or are just ignorant. Not one good can be said for the immigration, legal or illegal, of people of color. They are now ruling over us at all levels of state and federal government. We have more violence in our cities each and every day than ever in the past before the Immigration policies changed in 1964. Our white children have been indoctrinated, not taught to think for themselves. They, like you, concur about the "crazies, loonies and radicals" that find their way to white North Idaho.
Not me anymore. I had a belly full of liberalism, leftwing diversity loving whites in Idaho.
Vincent Bertollini - released from Federal Prison....finally!

9:48 PM, May 13, 2011  
Blogger Rob said...

RVB, the only "race" I'm concerned about is the human race. Your comment is a virtual fountain of misinformation (e.g., nationwide violent crime rates have been steadily dropping since the 60s). I feel sorry for you and all the other ignorant racist douchebags like you. Fortunately, you're all part of a dying breed.

9:36 AM, May 14, 2011  

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