« on: October 28, 2008, 05:23:04 pm »
Taken from a discussion I had with some guy on his blog, concerning the town I grew up in.
I grew up in Bagdad, and graduated from High School there. And I don't think Randy should be so quick to give up his initial impressions of the place. It is full of tame, manageable people, who are singleminded and not very open to dissent or debate about much of anything.
The only people in Bagdad who display individuality are usually people who have nothing to gain from being "normal" -- teenagers who plan to leave as soon as they're legally allowed to and educators who use Bagdad to get a couple years experience and then move to a respectable district.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that the people of Bagdad don't like people rocking the boat. Less than a month before High School graduation, my friends and I were actually arrested on some trumped-up charges and almost imprisoned, until the Judge in the case realized what was going on and expunged our records and reprimanded the deputies involved. It was clearly a "you're not welcome and you'd better get out of town as soon as you can" message, and that's what we did.
Today, when most people I know look back on their High School careers as among the happiest times in their lives, I look back and almost ten years later I'm still glad I never fit in there.
I have to add that I wasn't an above-average troublemaker, in fact I have never been (including the incident I described above) actually charged with any crime other than traffic violations. I was never one to engage in reckless or dangerous activity, or to deface or otherwise vandalize anyone's property, which is more than I can say about many of the people regarded as inseparable from that society.
The thing about us that people in Bagdad hated wasn't that we were disruptive or violent or that we caused damage, because none of that was true. Bagdad, like any homogenized right-wing enclave, simply has a deep-seated distrust of anyone who reminds them that the world is full of people who don't fit the small-town stereotype.
We were targeted not because we were a threat but because we reminded people that the world is moving quickly away from these people's comfort zone; that societies change; and that there's a reason why Norman Rockwell wasn't a photographer.
I would stop short of calling the place a 21st Century version of slavery, because most of the people who live there do so because they choose to, because that's what they want in life. And that's fine.
But it is unfortunate that the town has so little consideration for people who live there because they must, provides so little opportunity for those who might choose to do something else in life, and breeds an extreme Us-vs-Them culture where the Outsider can never be accepted except as a novelty.
Bagdad is in many ways the quintessential American Small Town, and its exports include more than copper -- it is also a rich source of cynicism, cronyism, short-sighted jingoist nationalism, and institutional ignorance.