Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Name an issue and the Know Nothings are against it

A letter writer to the local paper this week used the tired old trope "love it or leave it" in regards to Cheyenne newcomers advocating for change.

Downtown redevelopment. Bike lanes. Legal protections for the LGBT community. The arts and education.

Name an issue and they'll be again' it, dammit. Cheyenne's fine just as it is. You darn California and Colorado liberals go back to where you came from.

The issues are many. Young people such as my daughter cannot find competent mental health care. Hundreds of K-12 students would go hungry over weekends so get shipped home on Fridays with sack lunches. UW graduates cannot find good-paying jobs in their hometown. When they do find one with, say, the state, the pay is 13 percent below private sector wages and Republican lawmakers call you bums. Our downtown has a big hole in its midst and dozens of unoccupied buildings. Gays and lesbians go to public meetings to voice their opinions and abuse is heaped upon them by ranks of grouchy Know Nothings.

Everything's just peachy in Chey-town.

My family and I have lived in Cheyenne since 1991. I'm still a newcomer in some eyes. Because I'm a liberal, me and my views are always in the minority. I have a good job and own a house and my kids attended public schools. I have great friends. As I've said before, if I counted on only having liberals for friends in Wyoming, I'd be lonely.

Americans are migrating to silos. I don't mean the missile variety -- we have plenty of those and people even live in decommissioned ones out on the prairie. People are finding other like-minded people to dwell with. If you're a liberal, you live in a city. If you're conservative, you live in the country or small town. Depending on your location, the suburbs are a mix of outlooks but tend to be conservative.

For much of its existence, Cheyenne has been pretty good about avoiding progress. But during its "Hell on Wheels" days, it was the fastest-growing city on the high prairie. We were supposed to be Denver, you see, but the sharpies down south lured the railroad and developers and boosters and before long its largest daily newspapers was promoting itself as "The Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire." Wow. Didn't take long for this dusty two-bit cowtown at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek to become the capital of an empire.

And Cheyenne got left in the dust.

One in six Wyomingites live in our county tucked into the southeast corner of this big square state. Who are they? Older than the national average, and overwhelmingly white. Lots of retired government workers live here, including many military. Working cowboys are outnumbered by railroad retirees and those who managed to survive the oil patch. We do have a lot of cowboy fans -- that's University of Wyoming Cowpokes fans not the ones who cheer for Tony Romo on Sundays.

So I'm surrounded by old white guys like me. They tend to be the watchers of FOX News and members of the Tea Party. I can relate to their gripes. But I just don't see how blaming Latinos and gays and our black president helps the future. Their kids and grandkids in Omaha and SLC pick up their smartphones and see a bunch of angry old guys making a scene at a Cheyenne city council meeting. This is not their idea of a good time -- or of a dynamic place to live.

Advice to my Boomer peers -- tone down the hateful rhetoric or this place has the same life expectancy as a roomful of Medicare recipients.

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