Thursday, September 8, 2016

Go Away

One of the stereotypes of native Seattlites (and many of the suburbanites) is that they're hostile towards outsiders who have moved into the area. Bill Radke, radio host at local NPR station KUOW, once related a story about a visitor from Boston speaking to a local official, and commenting on how wonderful a place this was. The response from the local official: "Don't move here."

While the idea of Donald Trump building a wall to keep people from crossing the border from Mexico is met with ridicule and scorn by many in the area, the fact of the matter is that there is a noticeable constituency for shipping newcomers back to where they came from, and that the Puget Sound area should be reserved for locals. They might not want to build a wall, and perhaps that's fitting, because they don't want to build anything else, either. Anything that erodes the "character" of Seattle as a small city masquerading as a small town can bring out the NIMBYs in force at the drop of a hat. And this has lead to a city that, while growing due to the presence of major technology firms in the area, seems singularly unprepared for the idea that those businesses will attract people to the area.

While natives to the area may not confess to the same sorts of economic anxieties that they are quick to pin on Trump voters, there is another sort of anxiety at work - one that concerns itself with the evolution of the place where they live into a place that's no longer recognizable and welcoming to them; and one that's no longer "special." When I lived in Chicago, I knew many people who were proud of their city, but the sort of sneering at other places that pops up now and again out here was outside of my experience. To be sure, it's not exactly common here, but there is this idea, as evidenced in the picture above, that Seattle has nothing to learn from other places, and no reason to take some of their characteristics into itself.

Seattle won't have to worry about this forever. A generation or so ago, the city seemed posed to become a ghost town. And I'm sure that many other places would gladly help Seattle's major employers pack up shop and move elsewhere. But for now, Seattle is an example of the fact that wanting others to stay where they are isn't confined to one side of the political spectrum.

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