Tuesday, August 01, 2006

News flash! Conservative visits inner city, finds it not to his liking...

Okay, so I was bored the other day and I decided to cruise on over to the “Anti-Strib” blog and see what the local right-wing’s been angry about recently. As some of you might remember, the “Anti-Strib” is a team of steamin’ mad conservatives who feel that (a) the local daily newspaper is a crypto-socialist organ aimed at brainwashing gullible Minnesotans into supporting the coming worker’s state, (b) liberals are pathological tax-raisers who don’t have a decent bone in their skinny, alpaca-clad bodies, and (c) Muslims are bad. Pretty standard stuff, as far as all this goes, and not worth engaging with, but sometimes they post an article that I get a chuckle out of. Such is the case with yesterday’s “Social Engineering? Thoughts On The Midtown Site Project” by my personal favorite Anti-Stribber, Rambix.

He begins with a question:

Other than bashing President Bush at every opportunity, how do Minneapolis liberals like to spend their time?

As a Minneapolis liberal, I feel I am uniquely qualified to answer this question. But, first, did you know that President Bush sucks? I’m not kidding. He’s a really, really, really bad president. In fact, I can barely enjoy life while such a disgusting, amoral, idiotic man is in office! The trail a slug leaves as it slowly drags itself from sidewalk crack to sidewalk crack is more substantial than the soul of that depraved, language-mangling Texan in the White House! I am filled with loathing! Loathing and disgust. Disgust and loathing...

Oh, wait! I must have been distracted for a moment there! What was the question again? Oh yeah, he was asking how liberals like to spend their time. Luckily, Mr. Rambix is an expert in the liberal psyche, so he has an answer at the ready:

Celebrating diversity, of course (whatever this means).

Actually, he’s wrong here. Celebrating diversity is, at most, fourth or fifth on the list. After bashing President Bush, most of us Minneapolis liberals prefer to touch-up the Paul Wellstone tattoos we all have on our inner thighs. Then, once we get done with that, we like to make fun of suburban-dwellers who worry about getting shot when they make expeditions into the big bad city. To wit:

The site [of the Midtown Global Market] also sits smack-dab in the ghetto amidst hookers, pimps, criminals, and various and sundry street people. Therein lies part of the problem.

Taking my family to the site involved navigating East Lake Street, which has recently been repaved (and looks good, I might add). The trouble is the rough neighborhoods you pass through on your way to the site. Of course there are good people about, but there are bad people too. And it's no secret that gang wars are in full bloom this summer, with no regard to location or time of day. It's not unrealistic to imagine bullets flying at any moment.

For those of you not in Minnesota, Mr. Rambix is talking about a new development in South-Central Minneapolis. Basically, the corporate offices of Allina*, a large local company that runs a HMO and a chain of hospitals and clinics, recently moved into a long-vacant historic building (a former Sears store and warehouse) in the inner city. The city did a fair amount of wooing for this to happen, I assume, but it also allowed Allina to be closer to its flagship hospital, Abbott Northwestern, which sits just a block away. Along with the new corporate offices, a Sheraton hotel was built (to accommodate people traveling to do business with Allina, as well as people traveling in from other parts of the state to have procedures done at Abbott Northwestern and the neighboring Children’s Hospital). Because a new urban development cannot be completed without at least a few expensive condos and luxury apartments attached, some of these were also placed in the old Sears warehouse.

Now, obviously, these thousands of new workers and dozens of new residents were going to need someplace to eat. There are already restaurants in the area, but most of them are your standard-issue fast food joints or places that cater mainly to the area’s large Spanish-speaking immigrant community. Plus, since most of the surrounding area is taken up by various hospitals and parking lots, there aren’t very many places that are close enough to go on a short lunch break. The developers’ solution? Invite a bunch of well-known and fledgling ethnic restauranteurs and grocers to open up stalls in the old Sears building’s lobby. That way Allina’s employees can have a place to go and eat. It’s essentially a fancy food court with a few stands selling merchandise from various cultures.

Mr. Rambix, however, mischaracterizes it as similar to the “Block E” project, which is an entertainment/dining/shopping center in downtown Minneapolis. I suppose these are both large scale development projects in the city of Minneapolis, but otherwise they don’t have much in common. Block E is intended to woo suburbanites downtown, whereas the Midtown Exchange project has a built-in clientele (hotel guests, Allina employees, hospital employees, etc.). Now, I’m sure the people in charge of the Global Market would be thrilled to have suburban and ex-urban customers, but–all the same–it isn’t geared to them and doesn’t really need them.

Which is a good thing, I suppose, since Mr. Rambix (after risking his life to get there!) didn’t have a very good experience:

Based on the hype, I fully expected an impressive marketplace/mall type operation at the Midtown Global Market. What I discovered was much less than advertised.

This goes back to my opening sentences: the interior of the "market" is a hodgepodge of forced and contrived diversity and multiculturalism. It is much less than impressive.

We encountered disinterested, indifferent clerks at many of the "stores"; The restaurants seemed nothing more than fast food ethnic food (i.e. not particularly good); and - forgive me - the place was crawling with obvious liberals, exuding a smugness that makes me thankful everyday I have conservative blood in my veins.

In short, there's no reason to go back.

Alright. First off, about the “fast food ethnic food”: like I said, the place is designed for employees of Allina and the neighboring hospitals to get food on their lunch breaks. I can assure you that they don’t give their staff enough of a meal hour to enjoy a succulent five-course dinner, followed by a round of leisurely shopping. And, since I’ve been to the Midtown Global Market a few times, I can say that the clerks there are no more disinterested or indifferent than clerks anywhere else. Actually, they’ve always been pretty pleasant to deal with. Maybe this is just because I’m an obvious liberal, though. I just show my Paul Wellstone thigh tattoo and—presto!—a surly cashier instantly becomes my comrade!

It’s the line about being thankful to have conservative blood in your veins that really caught my attention here, however. So, is right-wingness an ethnicity now? Can Mr. Rambix be a conservative like I’m a Swede-Scot-French-Canadian? Is it a genetic inheritance? Does that mean that I have conservative blood in my veins too? After all, my dad is pretty conservative. My mom is a liberal, though. Does that make me their mixed-political child? I, of course, prefer the term bi-political, but maybe I’m just repressing my conservative patrimony.

Pardon me, but that’s just bullshit. You can have conservative thoughts in your head---although God knows that's bad enough---but conservative blood in your veins? That sounds like a condition any one of the nearby hospitals might be able to help you with, Mr. Rambix.

* In the interests of full disclosure, I should probably say that I work at one of the hospitals mentioned in this article, which makes me, technically, an Allina employee. Indeed, pretty much every day for several years now I’ve managed to walk to work down the same roads Mr. Rambix worries so much about without even once getting shot, stabbed, robbed, or even verbally harrassed. Why are the “sundry street people” snubbing me? I’m hurt, sundry street people, I’m really hurt...