The list runs in reverse order, from mildly frightening to super scary.
10. Snow. Is every snowflake Armageddon? No. It’s Wisconsin – we’ve had snow before — and here’s a guess — we’ll have snow again. If Americans can fight the Taliban in Afghanistan (and despite the sadness of that conflict, do so with honor and stoicism), we can endure a little rain and snow back home in Whitewater.
9. Potholes, Gravel, Cracked Roads. Some day — some day in 2012 — we’ll have a new bridge along North Street. Until then, and long after then, many other streets will look like roads left over from ancient Rome.
8. Protesters. Tens of thousands protested at the Capitol, for weeks, with scarcely any trouble, yet it was the very end of civilization for some. Mobs, etc. everywhere, each assumed to be vandals (to the point of being, well, Vandals). Here in Whitewater, a few protesters on a sidewalk were a horde of pickets, threatening our tender and delicate community. Such fussy, prissy nonsense — no one was threatened, no one was harmed. A heavy police presence at one protest, and watching officers nearby at another, were a waste of time.
Those who are whining about supposed ‘threats’ to the social order are — almost invariably – new men parroting what they think an established man would say in these circumstances (“Oh dearie me, can you imagine these savages, running amok? What ever will we do?”) Complainers’ fussiness gives them away: an established man would be – should be – must be – nonplussed.
The sky isn’t falling.
7. Federal Testing Standards. There are lots of reasons to worry about education. National No Child left Behind standards are not among them. One-size-fits-all fits poorly.
6. Independence. Is there a policy that says those on a commission should be beholden to those they are meant to oversee? Too many people have somebody else’s back, in demonstrations of grinning so obvious they might as well be from of a litter of Cheshire Cats.
5. The Poor. We seldom talk about the poor, in a town teeming with them. It’s all so down-market and depressing, after all. Let’s accentuate the positive (and for goodness’ sake, stop talking about the rest)!
4. Studies and Risks. Want to stop a project you don’t like? Forget about about causality and good science – trot out any study and make any claim you can. Pronto. Say something terrible might happen “on occasion,” without any way for others to assess that likelihood against countervailing harms. Fear, uncertainty and doubt: it’s your ticket to policy-success-through-scaremongering, and it saves you the trouble of thinking clearly while still getting what you want.
Is there a study that shows that Presbyterians in Omaha in 1972 sometimes threw dead fish at passersby during basketball games? Perfect – use it to show that seafood sales in Whitewater should be watched and monitored closely, very closely. While you’re at it, regulate Presbyterianism in the city through a mandatory ankle-bracelet-monitoring ordinance. One can, after all, never be too careful.
3. House Parties. If over-drinking is a problem, make sure you avoid dealing with it effectively. That’s hard work, and requires genuine outreach and real community policing. Instead, take the lazy man’s path to avoiding a solution: stage a big raid once a year, crow about it, and post headlines in your How I Spent My October scrapbook.
Of course drinking will keep going on — but if it’s not in the news, did it really happen?
2. Immigrants. Unemployment, poverty, empty spaces, foreclosed homes, and general malaise? Why not expand state power, detain supposedly illegal immigrants on any suspicion, regardless of actual criminality, and ship them out of town?
There is — and as long as human nature endures there can be — no better general allocation of resources in a society than a free market in capital and labor. There are exceptions, but none so great that a market solution is not generally preferable in most cases.
A rounding up immigrants of any kind is economically irrational, and it’s no less irrational than believing that stars and planets shape one’s destiny.
Worse, of course, is the rending of the social fabric an anti-immigrant policy would inflict on Whitewater. It’s simply impossible to yield or overlook the economic and social harm from something like Assembly Bill 173.
There’s a Know-Nothingism about this; it will fare no better as policy now than it has in the past. America is an open and welcoming place – we’ll stay that way (as so many will fight to remain that way), a few narrow legislators not withstanding.
1. The Plain and Simple. Here, one finds a recurring ailment. America yearns for the plain and simple, and assumes they still thrive in small-town America. Those standards are around us, but they’re hardly thriving.
It’s all big ideas and big plans, with the allure of municipal-led development trumping efficient and impartial delivery of basic services. When a city manager tries to convince town squires that his role as a so-called development leader means more than his administration’s delivery of basic neighborhood services, then we can conclude that we’ve truly lost our way.
Whitewater’s city government doesn’t need a financier, a wheeler-dealer, or a mover-and-shaker; that role belongs elsewhere, in a separate and independent organization. If the job of city management isn’t thrilling enough, the fault doesn’t rest with, and shouldn’t fall on, the residents of this beautiful but struggling town.