[Redstone is, of course, a pseudonym (as is Arapaho, my home state). Please do not try to uncover in the comment section. If you have a guess, email me and I will confirm or deny. It’s an extreme case, but in my more glum moments, I wonder if it isn’t indicative of more than a town in the Mountain West.]
The front page of Redstone’s newspaper the other day showed some protesters. Redstone has a real populist and ornery streak, blue collar and Catholic. Rather than being defined my its idiosyncratic politics, though, it’s more commonly defined by its place in the world. It’s a place you drive through thinking how neat and authentic it is, but don’t actually stop in unless you really need something. And if you do stop, you stop on the outskirts of town. One of the elementary schools I substitute taught at used to be a middle school, but they closed a couple of grade schools and down-graded it. Not enough children. The rest of the state looks down on Redstone. It’s dirty. It’s comparatively uneducated. The best and the brightest leave for college and don’t look back.
In other words, Redstone has a lot to be upset about.
They’re upset at pretty much everybody. The rich for keeping it all for themselves. The middle class for moving away. The government, for closing down the post office on Main Street while the people on Granger Street live on without working a damn day in their lives. The people on Granger Street, for ruining their town. Industry for leaving. The state for failing to meet their basic needs. The teachers for going on strike. The district for failing to pay the teachers enough. The wars, which are not abstract issues because they enlist in very high numbers. The dirty people in the next neighborhood over. The snobs on the neighborhood on the other side who seem to draw the school boundaries just to keep everybody else out.
There used to be a row of mansions, one after the next, near downtown. One by one, the rich people left and they were converted into hotels and apartments. The apartments that used to be, having lost their tenants, started boarding their doors. There has been talk of building a new school – the newest is almost forty years old – but the budget being what it is and one of the schools sitting half-empty, Redstone isn’t a place for new schools anymore.
And that, more than anything, is what Redstone is upset about.