Thursday, April 16, 2009

A small town divided

Little Moscow Idaho is actually a city divided by two somewhat conflicting cultures. With a relatively large "liberal" population (for the state of Idaho) in terms of voting history, it is also the home of New Saint Andrews College. The college is focused on promoting education in the classics and moving away from "secular" learning in institutions of higher education. There is also a high school, Logos, students from which typically feed into the college, although it attracts students from all over the U.S. and internationally. Many of the same students and their families also attend Christ Church, a conservative evangelical church led by Douglas Wilson, also a faculty member at New Saint Andrews. While it usually seems like the members of those three institutions form a cohesive and fairly self-contained group, they interact with University of Idaho students from elsewhere in the state through concerts and lectures held at a local coffeshop/theatre, and hold an event each August called Trinity Festival.
Doug Wilson, sometimes called a "neo-confederate," is an internationally known writer on topics of family and education, encouraging Christian parents to privately educate their children. He also wrote a booklet (which he published himself) with fellow League of the South member, Steve Wilkins, called Southern Slavery: As It Was. The booklet suggests that slavery in the south before the civil war was actually an example of a harmonious coexistence between two races, and that a system of slavery is sanctioned in the Bible. In 2004, Wilson and Wilkins, along with anti-gay minister George Grant, held a conference in the Student Union Building on my campus (though I was then attending Moscow High School). They were received by hundreds of supporters, some of whom traveled to attend, and an equal if not larger number of outraged protesters (students and faculty at the U of I and WSU, along with citizens of Moscow and the surrounding area). 
While this event marked a particularly climactic period, the ongoing culture clash in Moscow was well underway before it, and continues on today. Several business in the heart of the town are privately owned and operated by members of the church, and due to the fact that money generated through those businesses is channeled in part into the church and college, many refuse to shop in or even enter them. This has created an odd physical manifestation of an ideological border for those on either side of the issue. Sometimes, not often, things like defacing of windows, active promotion of boycotting, or heated political conversations between strangers happen at these borders. For the most part, for me, it just means there are places in my own small town that I do not go, some I have never even been inside of. Also, if I am having a conversation with someone I don't know very well, and they mention the Nuart or West of Paris, I notice myself making assumptions, and it makes me uncomfortable. 
This is a strange feeling, as I tend to think of drawing up borders and quieting discussions as completely ineffective and even harmful. However, I am not sure that there is an effective alternative, in this case, to simply living and letting live. 

No comments:

Post a Comment