Good-Humored Berserker Bagpiper

Around the time of our city election a week or so ago, you may recall that the news broke that a list of Christ Church businesses was being circulated for purposes of boycotting them. There has been some fallout from all that which you might be interested in. This is not everything that happened, but here is the gist.

One of the business owners affected, Francis Foucachon, wrote a bracing letter to the editor comparing our local diversity-mongers to the Nazis. Now usually the first person to bring up the whole Nazi deal in an argument is at a singular disadvantage, but Francis actually had the experience to know what he was talking about — his father had actually been arrested by the Nazis. Some of the local extremists have of course answered him hot and loud, but there are some real signs of hope that some genuine attempts at liberalism may be coming into play.

Nancy and I had dinner at West of Paris tonight, and Francis — he is a great chef, by the way — told us that he had reservations at another table, made by an outraged . . . true liberal. Not the kind that writes the hot and loud answers. And the Moscow Food Coop wrote a letter to the editor saying that they were not in favor of any boycotts of any local businesses, and good for them. And Jim Fisher of the Lewiston Morning Tribune wrote an editorial this morning that came off the top ropes. “If Christ Church parishioners can tolerate their sometimes unconventional Moscow neighbors, all Moscowans should be able to tolerate them.” Now don’t misconstrue any of this. Jim is an old friend and acquaintance, and he is so liberal that I suspect that genetic engineering had to have been involved. But he wants to be a true liberal.

Now this ought not to be misunderstood. We all choose to patronize or avoid businesses everyday. I can think of one sausage emporium where I discovered a bobby pin in one of their sausages, and that kind of thing can certainly dim the enthusiasm. We might not like the product, or the service, or the environment, etc. It’s a free country, and we want it to stay that way. But to put together a blacklist of businesses based on nothing more than where that person worships on Sunday . . . well, sorry, but Francis had a point.

The answer to this comes back, as it did in a letter to the editor tonight, “I choose not to patronize any business that supports a bigoted, radical, theocratic church.” If the charge were really true, then the writer could have a defensible point. But that’s how stereotyping works — and this is why it is done in the first place. If the Jews really were causing the plague in the middle ages, then striking back at them would make sense. But that’s a big word, if. One of the themes that comes out clearly in Rene Girard’s work is the fact that persecutors consistently feel persecuted. They lash out because they feel so wronged, and they feel so wronged because they were foolish enough to believe every lie about the targeted group that came their way. I have lost track of how many erratic falsehoods I have heard circulating about us — and those are just the falsehoods that I have heard about. How many more are out there? My personal favorite was the rumor we heard years ago that members of Christ Church were required to make their own toothbrushes.

But here is the bottom line. We are more than happy to live among our neighbors in a spirit of good will and genuine toleration. We are also willing to collect the mail and feed the dog when they are on vacation. And it is beginning to look as though a number of liberals (while continuing to believe that I am a good-humored berserker bagpiper from the Highlands of the Right) are willing to reciprocate. I told Tom Lamar when he came to see me that if he were elected to the council, and wanted to put together some kind of clear the air event, he could deal me in. And I thought I should make that offer public.

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