It occurred to me while reading in online comments to news stories the remorseless invective directed at Springfield, its political leaders, and its citizens, in this case as a consequence of the mayor’s decision to go with the MGM casino plan as the city’s candidate for state licensure, that all of that vituperation was really just an example of cyber-bullying. What intrigues me most about the concept is that my experience in the public schools has taught me that bullies generally don’t see themselves as bullies, they almost always feel not only justified in their behavior, but feel that they are engaging in courageous acts of standing up for one thing or against something else. At my school we had an ostensible anti-bullying lecturer overtly bully students with the intention of ending bullying in the school and it was clear that it was his strategy to do so all along.
People love to say things like: “Bullies are really cowards. Bullies are weak. If you confront bullies they will back down. Bullies are really insecure.” All wrong in my experience. Many bullies are fearless and, even when confronted, will justify their actions including in the face of administrative authority. Because for many people bullying comes down to “ends” more than “means”, and humans are spectacularly gifted at seeing their own desires as just, their own behavior is never bullying.
That said, it’s interesting to contemplate what people believe it is that justifies their vilification of Springfield. Race and xenophobia are part of the equation for sure, but I don’t think it explains just how comfortable people feel in writing (and saying) the most hateful things about my community.
The strangest tendency is for people who claim to have long since left the community to comment on stories with such animus and hate only to reiterate how happy they are to no longer be living in such a terrible place. I spent 4 years, more or less, in Utah going to college. I didn’t particularly like it. I found the culture vapid, the landscape stark, and the people superficial. So I left. I don’t particularly wish the place well but, except for what I have written just now on this topic, I don’t think I’ve ever expressed these sentiments in a public venue before. I don’t go to the Salt Lake Tribune website to write screeds against Utah and Utahans and I don’t comment on every crime story or every story about fundamentalists polygamists in order to give voice to my feelings. I suppose I’ve moved on. If these anti-Springfield (often) anti-urban individuals haven’t moved on, what exactly is it that they haven’t moved on from?
Apart from that many of the posts seem to view the larger society as having been victimized by cities in general and Springfield in particular. This reminds me a bit of the “Red State Blue State Paradox” in which, generally, the so called (and leave it to the United States to screw up the otherwise universal red=left blue=right symbolism!) Red States actually take much more from the federal government than they give, but complain about the excesses of government spending, and the Blue States generally support government largesse in spite of the fact that they lose much more than they gain. In the same way it is pretty clear that urban areas, even poor ones, provide more to public coffers than they receive in return, the giant resource suckers being the suburbs. What matters of course is that people believe that cities are taking their money.
Even on the public airwaves some radio hosts, while claiming a certain amount of civic pride, will incessantly mock the city they sometimes pretend to promote commercially. One morning program in particular will play, repeatedly, an interview with a black woman which took place after a catastrophic fire in Oklahoma City after every fire in a multi family dwelling in Springfield or Holyoke, because losing everything you own and having your life endangered by fire is hysterical. I don’t hear them play it after a fire in a single family home in Longmeadow or Wilbraham…but maybe I’ve just missed those to be fair. The same morning team was discussing the MGM casino plan and the need to replace the DaVinci Park. When they were unable to find the park on google maps (I assume) they described it as “a set of monkey bars in a parking lot” and “not the kind of place you’d have a picnic”. You decide:
(Somewhere I actually have a picture of us picnicking at DaVinci Park, I mean, it’s right behind Red Rose!)
Springfield has always had an inferiority complex. I think it’s one of the reasons I feel so strongly about my hometown, I know its one of the reasons I started this blog. I grew tired of hearing nothing but the litany of evil connected to my city, and decided to counter, not with an equally unbalanced positive view of the city, but rather with an open expression of what I view as the strengths and weaknesses of the place I call home. On weeks like this when I happen to expose myself to more of the Springfield hate than I ought to, I’m glad I have this outlet to voice my own views.
I went to the symphony last night. The evening was wonderful from the weather, to the meal we enjoyed at a downtown restaurant to, of course, the music. Before the orchestra could begin Mozart’s “Requiem”, the president of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra came out to tell us that, inasmuch as her two year term was ending, this would be her last concert as president. At the close of her remarks, she brought out the new president of the SSO, who, as an executive with Massachusetts Mutual was proud to tell us that his company was doing well, with over a trillion dollars of investments under their watchful eye, and recently being ranked third in. Forbes list of the world’s top life insurance companies. All great. All appropriate. But then he went on to talk about the quality of the SSO, and how amazed guest performers and conductors are with the SSO, because it’s in (and he actually made air quotes) “Springfield”. There were sniggers.
I just can’t imagine a civic minded, high ranking executive from a Fortune 100 company anywhere else in the world, at a gathering of the community wherein his headquarters are located, doing such a thing. I am fairly certain he lives in Longmeadow, a wealthy suburb of the city, and that the audience members who sniggered were mostly from similar communities. I doubt an institution like the Springfield Symphony Orchestra could survive on just the support of city residents. Having said that, I would hope that these people, most of whom derive their incomes from employment which only exists because of the city of Springfield and the employee base it provides, would be more inclined to appreciate just how spectacular the cultural assets are which are now available to them because of the City of Springfield.