Saturday, December 3, 2011

I lift my lamp beside the... gas station door?: Part 1 of my trip home

Remember when I went to Bizarro Philly and mentioned that there's really nothing all that special about my hometown of Philadelphia, NY? All that has changed, and my town now has something of note.

I'm not talking about the historic one-room schoolhouse:


which they've sold off and had moved away since the last time I was home, or even the stretch limo up on blocks by the high school:

stretch limo on blocks

now in its second year of gracing the side of the road on Route 11. No, I'm talking about a semi-permanent monument, a symbol, the kind of thing that might pull some tourists off of the highway and show them that our town cares enough about our country to erect a statue in between the Stewart's Convenience Store, about which I have nothing but good things to say, and Philly Fuels, for which I have nothing but scorn.

I give you the Philadelphia, NY, Statue of Liberty and flagpole:

America! Patriotism!

Let the kind of patriotism that only a ten foot replica statue of another, better monument somewhere else can provide wash over you for a moment, and then I'll take a moment to explain my simultaneous love and hate.

Why I love it: Oh, God, it's tacky. I love tacky roadside monuments like a pig loves rolling in mud.

Why I hate it: The Statue of Liberty celebrates America's welcoming and acceptance of immigrants from all over the world. My town, on the other hand, is pretty unwelcoming toward outsiders. When I was in high school the military base near the village was expanding, bringing in lots more kids to the school district. I was one of them, and for pretty much the entire time I was there the local chatter was all about "outsiders" and "transient military people" and "those people", and that's not even getting into the variety of racist terms that were bandied about since the high school stopped being all-white.

Not only that, but it stands in the village of Philadelphia, where summer jobs are only available to people who are related to other people who live in the village (a fact that was confirmed for me by my friend, the mayor's daughter), and it was purchased by and erected on the property of Philly Fuels, a business whose proprietor told me in the summer of 1994 that they only hire females to work in the store, because "Boys are too much trouble, and the trucks like to see girls behind the counter."

The idea that my village, home of the high school that willingly purchased alumni directory software that did not allow LGBT people to list a partner, rather than spouse, before gay marriage was legal in New York and then wouldn't ask the provider to change it, is suddenly welcoming to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the homeless, and the tempest-tossed strikes me as ridiculous, especially since the anti-Jewish graffiti that I noticed on village property in 2008:

hate crime

still hasn't been cleaned off as of last week:

hate crime graffiti

I suppose it's possible that some of the things I mentioned have changed since I was in high school and college and that my village is now a whole other place, but I seriously doubt it. Instead, I bet that from the outsider's perspective it's still pretty unwelcoming.

You probably wouldn't notice, though, if you only stopped long enough to get some gas and stare at our new statue.


qh said...

You were born in a Bobbie Gentry song, weren't you? I'm sure it's lovely in its own way, but once I saw the 'Jews Must Die' graffiti, I was soured on spending actual time in your hometown. Especially with my gay Jewish partner. Call it folly.

Joel said...

The worst part is that the graffiti has been there for at least three years, and the village hasn't cleaned it off of their footbridge yet.

JMBower said...

the irony being that I'm not sure there were enough people of Jewish descent or faith in that town to even have that hateful epithet be plural.

"Goldarnit,I sure do hate those people I've never actually had an encounter with!"

But maybe we're assuming too much of it, and it's actually a metaphysical statement of the inevitability of death, even to the chosen people?

Oh, no, wait, swastika. Moron it is.