Well, I've been working on another blog, but last night I followed a link someone had e-mailed me to a local news site’s comment forum. The extraordinary thing about this site was that, in only three days, 280 comments were posted – most of which were apparently written by the same few people.
If you haven’t visited this site yet, I really wish you would. It’s pretty interesting. No, not for what it says, but mostly because of the fact that, over the course of a steamy summer weekend, several people sat in front of their computers making the world a more blistering place to be by fanning the flames of conflict - some of whom are the same people who blame me for doing this all the time!
It seems that the comment sections of those on-line news sites are quickly evolving into the hottest new place to to cry foul, spew venom or grind your axe. Which is unfortunate, because comment sections are a wonderful new resource to hear what your fellow readers are thinking.
But as far as the Middleboro casino issue goes, what with local forums cracking down on flame wars, you can almost count on these comment sections becoming the combat zones du jour. And even becoming quite the place for um... "creative expression"... like when some people cleverly pretend to be our fellow anti-casino comrades simply brimming with outrage over our "innappropriate", anti-community, down-with-people blogs. While other folks clearly enjoy the challenge of coming up with new and ironic screen names. And, not so long ago I discovered that some of these gentle joksters had even been posting their comments under my name and that of some of my friends. Wow, pretty classy stuff, I'm sure you'll agree...
And in that venue, it all seems less like a debate over casinos, their impacts and the people behind them - and more like a perverse form of self-entertainment or bunch of creepy personal vendettas against the people who talk about casinos, their impacts and the people behind them.
So I thought I’d mention that, just in the past weeks, a couple of good blog posts have been written about this phenomenon over at Media Nation and Ryan’s Take, not to mention by my wise friend Carverchick.
Recently, I spoke with the on-line editor over at the Enterprise who assured me (after removing comments by me that were not actually written... by me) that his publication will soon be transitioning to a format which will require posters to register - and which should, at the very least, make it somewhat more time consuming for those people with IPs in Middleboro and West Bridgewater to amuse themselves by coming up with new screen names.
So, I suppose that’s a step in the right direction.
But the thing I mostly want to talk about today is a manufactured controversy over a place called “Clark, CT” which has been eviscerated six ways to Sunday in the aforementioned on-line forum.
Evidently somewhere, someone who is anti-casino once wrote that a casino caused a need for 100+ ESL teachers in a place called Clark, CT. And apparently, there is no such town. And therefore all anti-casino people, and all anti-casinio blogs - especially those associated in any way with CasinoFacts.org, are evil.
So, anyway... I hadn’t heard of Clark, either, but I had, at the beginning of my research into casinos, read about some really high second-language teacher requirements as a result of a sudden influx of immigrant casino workers and their families. And so, I spoke with another blogger who also remembers seeing this high number somewhere in the course of their own research.
Now, like I said, I don’t know about Clark CT – it doesn’t ring a bell – but I do know about Norwich, CT thanks to this article from the Cape Cod Times:
Though Norwich does not host either of the two Indian-owned casinos, the city of 37,000 has experienced an enormous impact from them.And...
More than 20,000 people work at the casinos, many on wages that can pay for housing only in the "affordable" range. Of the five towns surrounding the casinos, Norwich rents are the least expensive.
Even at that, "hot-bunking" has been an issue, as several tenants squeeze into crowded homes to save money.
Thousands of immigrants were lured to the area to work in the casinos.
In the past six years, the number of non-English-speaking students in public schools has quadrupled, from 100 to 400.Now, if you read the whole article, you will see that Norwich managed to turn this frown upside down. The city had been suffering, since the early 90’s, when cuts in defense industry spending, caused all the good-paying jobs local jobs to dry up. When casino workers looked for the only housing their paychecks could buy them – they went to Norwich. Small business sprouted up as a result. “And in the schools, resources were shifted to deal with the mushrooming number of non-English-speaking children of casino workers.”
Which is lovely. But what concerns me personally is that, what with gas prices racing toward $5.00 a gallon, places like Bridgewater, Middleboro, Lakeville and other area small towns would provide the most affordable commuter distances for low-wage earners. And our towns are not the once economically depressed city of Norwich. We are predominantly bedroom communities blessed with high employment. But we don’t have a lot of affordable housing, nor are we financially equipped to handle dramatic increases in teaching staff. As for Bridgewater, with it’s library currently open only a handful of hours a week, and constantly struggling with prop. 2 ½ overrides, we are hardly rich in resources to shift.
Additionally, though I don’t specifically remember a mention of Clark, CT – I do remember reading about “The Foxwoods Experience” on another anti-casino web site:
Speaking some 32 different languages at home, these immigrants have created a burden for the schools required to provide English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL)courses, remedial work, tutors, free lunches, nursing, and other special education services, while receiving no additional property taxes to offset the costs. The influx of this cheap labor has also affected the school district's ability to qualify for federal funding, which is now tied to test results under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.
So what of Clark, CT? I mean… could it be possible that someone made a mistake about the name of the town? Heavens to Murgatroid! Call the gendarmes!
Because we know that all pro-casino people are perfect. Not one of them has ever erred in his or her lifetime. Not one typo, not one blunder, poor choice or single oversight. I’ll bet not even one of them ever forgot to use the Blind Carbon Copy feature on a private e-mail. Nope. Not a chance. How awesome it must be to be so perfect.
So, you’ll have to excuse me and my less then perfect memory if we can’t summon a line item regarding a place called Clark, CT and it's number of ESL teachers.
However, I do remember that a few weeks ago, at least one of those people claiming outrage over Clark, CT signed his name to a letter to editor of the Middleboro Gazette, ever so not-so-subtlety insinuating I was a racist for questioning issues of immigration that arise as a result of a mega resort casino on my town’s border. Issues which, as you can see from the Norwich experience, are quite real.
I also remember how another member of Outraged Nation once called me a liar at a public hearing for quoting, on my blog, from a well-known and widely read independent study on casinos and crime. And a month or so later, posted on the front page of his website that I wanted him killed.
And so, as I read those 280 comments, many from those self-same morally-superior, high-minded, value-laden, indignant souls who walk among us without so much as a blemish, it wasn’t the mystery of Clark, CT, that had me scratching my head.
No, it was wondering if, on sunny summer weekends in the Middleboro area, (especially after such a long dreary winter) there are no lakes or rivers teaming with fish or boating opportunities? Are there no paperback best-sellers waiting on store shelves clamoring to be read? Are there no beaches where one can dig one’s toes in the sand? Is there nothing showing at the theatres? No ball games? No old friends to visit? No children to toss the old ball around with? Weeds to pull? Dogs to walk? Perhaps even an actual blog to write under one's own name?
If not, then I give up. Because, in their case, perhaps sitting like a mindless drone in front of a slot machine truly is a more productive pursuit – at least when you compare it to participating in a cyberspace schoolyard spitting contest where a person can, time and time again, reveal how outraged and utterly perfect they are – as a perfect ass.
But then, where better on a sunny summer day, to stick one's outraged perfect head.