Plymouth, Minnesota plays a fairly important role in my life. It is a big suburb to the west of Minneapolis, a mainly liberal or progressive middle class bedroom community linked to first ring extra-urban commercial development based mainly on corn. Kellogs, Cargill, Mosaic, other companies that grow corn, use corn in making products, sell corn based products and generally control a large percentage of the corn market have their Headquarters out in the Western Suburbs and many of the people who work in those places live in Plymouth, which is fairly large.

When I first moved to the twin cities I became friends with someone from Plymouth who had become a True Minneapolitonian and spent the time to take me under her wing and show me what’s cool and what’s not in the cities. As an anthropologist, I couldn’t help but to notice some of her speech mannerisms, and wondered if these little quirks that made me laugh were either slips made on accident or part of the regional patois. It turns out, as I learned more about the cities, that they were Western Suburb dialect, a subtly but distinctly different version of Minnesotan Dialect, spoken mainly in Plymouth and adjoining Golden Valley and spread among the youth of the region at the major central high schools.

Amanda is from Plymouth. She has that dialect. Her step mother’s family is actually fairly typical of the residents there, having moved one or two generations back from North Minneapolis during the nation-wide suburb-building White Flight Era. Amanda’s father’s family is from a different part of Minneapolis (Nordeast) which similarly contributed to the population of this suburb.

During the last two congressional elections, I worked for the DFL candidate for my district, and even though I live in a poor to working class community several towns away from Plymouth, in this salamander-shaped district Plymouth is one of the most important and influential communities. We were relying on Plymouth to be the progressive DFL stronghold that would put our candidates in Congress, but alas, that did not come to pass.

In fact, I was rather surprised about Plymouth during those campaigns, especially the first one when I spent several hours on the phone talking to possible DFL supporters. Our candidate was non-white and his ancestry was South Asian, though he himself was as culturally American as Apple Pie. His western suburb accent was thick, he was a U.S.M.C. Veteran of the Iraq War, and like most men his age who live in Plymouth, he was a lawyer. But despite his being just like everyone else in that suburb, many people could no see past his brown skin and found ways to hate him. One of the common questions I got from the right-leaning holdouts (of the 19th century) with whom I spoke was “Well, he’s probably against guns. What’s his stance on guns?” and my answer would be “Well, he’s a US Marine sharpshooter, but I’m not sure. I could arrange for you to ask him, though!”

Plymouth is somewhat ethnically and religiously diverse. Sure, it’s full of Christian evangelical mega-churches. The hill over by the family dentist is covered with giant mega-churches and cemeteries. On Sunday there’d be enough holy-rolling to wake the dead, and enough dead to make a rather large Zombie Amry! But there are many Jews (the White Flight from North Minneapolis was partly, maybe largely, Jewish), many South Asains (I have no idea what their particular history is) and many Muslims from the Near East (which is simply something that has been true in the Midwest for a century and a half … Palestinians or various others from the Levant were among the first non-Native immigrants to the region).

And now a community of Muslims wants to take over an old post office, which is for sale, and use it as a community center, which has become a euphamism for a Mosque (yes, there will be religious cermonies held there, making it a mosque). They may then lease a small part of the building back to the US Post Office because the post office needs only a small space there … which is why they are selling the building in the first place.

I’m not sure if the deal between the Federal Government and a religious organization is improper or not. And, as I’ve said before, I’m personally against the widespread conversion of land into church/mosque/temple uses because it is an offense to me that such large tax breaks — of all kinds, not just land taxes — are given to religious organizations which are, in effect, big businesses. Indeed, one of those mega-churches in the Plymouth area that is actually a full blown commercial convention center that rents its services out to all sorts of non-religious but paying corporations just like any other business came up in a recent discussion about this problem.

But in this case, the proposal seems reasonable. A bit of government property has essentially gone out of use. It is up for sale. Putting it to this new use will not change the tax base for this relatively wealthy community, and the city counsel has approved and supports the plan. In fact, most people in Plymouth who know about it seem to support it.

But, it’s Muslim. Therefore it’s Al Qaida, right? Or at least, listening to some of the yahoos who showed up at the City Council you would think so:

Go check out the story here. (You might need to go there to watch the video which may or may not have embedded properly. But please do so, you need to see the comments by some of the citizens about this community center/mosque.)

And, there is a growing comment thread on the site. To save you the trouble, I’ll show you some of the comments that appear there:

BS says:

Strange how Boyscouts have been banished from public school property? and now this seems to be OK. I have no problem with muslims at all, the nicest people I know in my life are from the middle east…. I have a beef with Nerdy White “Brownie nosed racist” Liberal people who make double standards.

MarkH says:

Islam is not a race-it is a manmade religion. Any one of us could easily demonstrate this fact (along with Judaism, Christianity, Mormonism, etc) by the simple act of converting to this ideology. Further, I readily concede that not all Muslims are radical-anymore than all Christians are radical. But we cannot ignore that it is the religion itself that perpetuates and teaches doctrines and ideas (martyrdom, misogyny, contempt for secularism, the killing of apostates, etc) that jeopardize society. In this regard Islam should be critically examined (and not given a free pass simply because it is a religion) as we would any ideology. No one here has any hesitation about criticizing Marxism, Stalinism, Nazism, the White Supremacy Movement, etc. The clear distinction between these and Islam is merely that the latter is regarded as a faith and therefore we show deference to these ideas on this basis alone. It is never dangerous to question and investigate an idea or ideology-the danger resides in silent complicity or the tendency to rationalize intolerance and hatred. Peace.

Not a real person says:

if you really want to understand what the muslims are doing read the koran then look at what they are doing to europe and tell me it is not the exact same thing!!! the muslims realized a long time ago they could not nor ever will win a war with the west!!! so instead they plan to slowly take over by using our very own laws against us and marry their daughters to our sons and have their sons marry our daughters until the conversion to islam is final and the caliphate is established they will not stop spitting in our faces. …

Sue says:

… get [the Muslims] out of here!!!! Don’t trust them, never will!! … Well at least this location they can mail their bombs faster!!

Angus says:

Sue: They have trained experts who can help you with your paranoid emotions. Please make an appointment to see them immediately!

I watch the WCCO site on a regular basis, specifically to observe and rejoin the comments, and I promise you that for every non-racist comment on the site now there were five deleted by the webmasters that would make your hair fall out. I don’t know this of course, but … well, I’m certain of it. The comments are interesting because of the concern over religion-state links. The comments about process are probably just misinformed (one person asks “why not just put it up for auction” as if the deal was struck secretly between the city, the postal service, and the mosque). Overall the comments reflect what one might like to see in a community such as Plymouth, but I’m afraid the underlying conservatism and racism is stronger and more widespread than people like to assume, and we see bits and pieces of it sticking up above the water line in the video.

If you think I’m wrong, just watch the most current comments pop up before they are deleted. “Go away! Don’t care. Don’t like ‘em. Don’t want ‘em here. … Isn’t this the religion of peace? You know, the one that wants to have David Letterman’s tongue cut out because they think he is a Jew … Timothy McVeigh did not commit acts of terrorism in the name of Jesus, you total fool. … ” This is a community that had the chance to vote for a man who had the same exact politics as the Congressperson who had represented them for decades … a moderate Republican who retired … or a man who is an exact clone of Michele Bachmann. But the former was not white, of South Asian ancestry and I know people did not like this because they told me during the phone banking. Or rather, more commonly, they asked me because they were confused. “Ashwin Madia, what kind of name is that? He’s not white, is he?” They chose the Bachmann clone. The hating embarrassing yahoos you see in the video are more common than you might think. And kudos to the person running that meeting for having the moral strength and the cajoles cojones to tell them to shut up and sit down.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    August 18, 2011

    In a bit of irony, many of the Asians who were part of frontier Minnesota were Syrian and Lebanese Christians, coming here for religious freedom. Their reception was very similar to that displayed in those comments. So much for it being all about the religion.

    These settlers were immortalized in the Betsy-Tacy books, but if you’re looking for something a bit more scholarly, I’d recommend the Minnesota Historical Society’s They Chose Minnesota for some background on what we’ve always been like.

  2. #2 Kimberly Chapman
    August 18, 2011

    All I know is the guy who crashed his plane into the IRS building here in Austin couldn’t have possibly been a terrorist, despite his anti-government ramblings and the whole plane-crashing-into-a-building thing, because he was a white, Christian Texan male and we all know what to call THOSE people: Mr. President.

    At least, Perry is really hoping everyone will see it that way…

    My sympathies for you having to deal with morons. Try not to read comments too long, because that’ll cause dain bramage.

  3. #3 rpenner
    August 18, 2011

    cajoles -> cojones ?

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    August 18, 2011

    rpenner ….. there’s a difference?

  5. #5 hoogreg
    August 19, 2011

    My sincere belief is that since 2001 there has been a concerted effort to spread anti-muslim propaganda via the internet, under the guise of “Support the Troops!”, “This is what we’re fighting against in Iraq!” and The Islamicization of Europe. This stuff originates mainly in the US, but we’re starting to see more from India, Canada and the UK.
    What you see on tv, in your inbox and in forum comments is the result of a patient and well-organized campaign to ensure that Muslims are seen as the Enemy, and to convince people there’s an insidious plan to turn the world into a Muslim Horde (or something – the details are a bit vague).

    Previously I was only curious about this – it was just a bunch of white supremacists doing what they do.

    But the comments in the Globe & Mail’s coverage of the Norway massacre were horrendous (“Toronto’s National Newspaper” a nominally Conservative but generally pretty centrist paper). Before the announcement that the killer was Norwegian, probably 80% of the 2000+ undeleted comments were anti-muslim, anti-Islam or anti-immigrant. This is shockingm, because I really thought we in Canada had largely avoided participating in the general trend of anti-muslim intolerance in the West. Boy, was I wrong.

  6. #6 StevoR
    August 20, 2011

    or a man who is an exact clone of Michele Bachmann.

    Wouldn’t an exact clone of Michelle Bachmann have to be female? Otherwise you’d need to change an X chromosome – which is the default or so I gather – into a Y one right?

  7. #7 StevoR
    August 20, 2011

    Umm .. are you implying there’s something wrong with what MarkH said in that quote you provided there?

    If so then what? It seems pretty accurate and reasonable to me.

  8. #8 Mary
    August 24, 2011

    So, I live in Plymouth. Just since 2009. Moved here from Chicago. I have no idea what accent you’re talking about… In fact every single fact in this post is news to me.

    To me it seems just like the suburbs I grew up in, in Overland Park, Kansas. Everybody is white, except a few “model minority” Asians. And everybody goes to church. And nobody likes to pay taxes, or which is why we don’t have any damn sidewalks and street lights and curbs and gutters on our roads. You don’t have to lock your doors and there’s nothing to do on the weekends. I would love to be convinced that Plymouth is somehow different from every other exurb, that people here vote, every now and then, differently than my Kansan “It was good enough for my great-grandpa, it’s good enough for me” neighbors… But where in Plymouth do I go to see this hidden diversity and progressivism?

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    August 24, 2011

    Mary, down hear Wayzata. There’s this one street …

  10. #10 Gaby
    September 10, 2011

    For many years writers have written thousands of books about Islam and their desire to rule this world,but (NON) have come up with the right SOLUTION
    Until I found this book :BEDROOM TERRORISTS
    In simple term,it gives them few choices
    1- Respect our law (OR) get out
    2-Denounce Violence (OR) you’re not welcome in out country
    3- Stop Brainwashing Children in our Suburbs and Streets

    I strongly recommend reading “Bedroom Terrorists” for all the FACTS that our Leaders have IGNORED

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