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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Roll out the red carpet

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 09:52 am

Well, this is exciting news:

Having made its name as a home for liberals and the blog posts of coastal elites, the recently renamed HuffPost is seeking to reinforce its new, less partisan image with a seven-week bus tour through Middle America to “listen and learn what it means to be American today"

[. . .]

At each city, the site will host events, roll out planned stories with local media outlets, send out reporters to write about the communities and collect stories from residents “in their own words.”

It's a unique project for a media organization that made its name as the crusading home for progressives, even attaching a note to each story during the election about then-candidate Donald Trump calling him a “xenophobe,” “racist” and “misogynist.” (The tag was removed on Election Day.) Founder Arianna Huffington created The Huffington Post in 2004 to be a liberal version of the Drudge Report.

And the best part is that Fort Wayne is one of the more than 20 cities the Huffington Post folks will be visiting. We'll all have a chance to explain Middle American mores and Heartland values to elite, liberal journalists who possibly have some mistaken ideas about us. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shine in the national spotlight, and we should take full advantage of it.

A few words of caution are in order, though. As we've learned from dealing with our sister cities in Japan and Poland and with immigrant communities like the Vietnamese and Burmese, not all cultures are alike. We must be sensitive to ways of life quite different from ours and go out of the way to make any newcomers feel comfortable in our midst. As the host community, we should make sure we respect the customs and habits of our visitors, even when they seem inexplicable and counterintuitive.

The HuffPost people won't be here until Oct. 5, so that gives us plenty of time to brush up on our etiquette and good manners. So please take a few minutes and acquaint yourself with these suggestions for making them feel comfortable and appreciated:

1. If you are carrying, please keep the weapon concealed at all times, and for that matter, don't even mention guns or the possibility that there might be some in the vicinity. These folks are quite resigned to the fact that bad people have guns, but for some reason it bothers them immensely that ordinary Americans might also want to be armed. You will likely scare them out of their wits.

2. Don't say anything about religion.  The don't comprehend this at all. You may say things like "Hate the sin but love the sinner" and "We are all children of God," but what they will hear is "We hate you Godless heathens" and "If you don't toe the line on our faith, we will squash you like a bug." To them, a religious person is a hate-mongering bigot. They really can't help it, so turn the other cheek.

2. If they do mention anything about the violence of right-wing Christians, for God's sake, do not counter with "Well, what about the violence perpetuated by militant Islam?" Islam is a religion of peace, jihad is a racist slur, and terrorism is a figment of George W. Bush's imagination.

3. It's all still George W. Bush's fault, by the way. Get used to hearing that.

4. Do not, under any circumstance, use the phrase "traditional values." For these folks, anything older than yesterday is of no value whatsoever, so "tradition" is not something they quite grasp. And "values" are what the common people in flyover country look for in department stores. Using traditional and values together as one phrase will confuse them terribly  and befuddle them no end.

5. Avoid direct eye contact, do not smile too frequently, and never, ever, offer to shake hands and wish them a good morning. They will spend all day wondering what you're up to and end the evening in a fit of paranoid funk.

6. Don't try to engage the journalists about journalism. Concepts like "objective reporting" and "neutral observer" are foreign to them, and they will get quite flustered if you bring them up. If you are interviewed by one of them, don't worry about what to say — it doesn't matter. They will have the story written before they even talk to you. They know what the story is, after all, and nothing you say will change it.

7. It will help for you to learn their language. You don't have to talk like them, heaven forbid, but it will help if you can understand them. The words you will hear most often are "racist" and "Nazi." These are used to mean: people who don't like Obamacare, people who don't like taxes, Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular, people who say they are honest, gun owners, people who work for money, people who say we should all take personal responsibility, people who want to enforce the border, and people who respect police.

Some other helpful words and phrases: bipartisan: conservatives giving liberals what they want; budget cut: a massive increase in spending that would have been even bigger except for the divisiveness in our country; climate change: a catastrophic condition caused by capitalism, cured by socialism;  conservative: racist, sexist, bigoted, white-trash homophobe who wants to dirty the air, dirty the water, spoil the planet, oppress the working class, torture animals, ruin America's global reputation, start wars, starve children and kick old people out into the streets with no food or medicine, all as a means of self-enrichment; fear monger: anyone who disagrees with socialists or socialism; hate speech: any expression of disagreement with progressives; multiculturalism: any culture but Western or American culture and, therefore, better; private property: whatever greedy individuals want to keep that could be used for the betterment of society.

There are many others, but I don't want to overwhelm you. Study the list.

8. Be prepared to nod a lot and say things like "That's interesting" or "You don't say" when you're lectured about issues of the day like global warming, abortion, transgender acceptance, open borders, voter ID and one-payer health care. Do not under any circumstance try to debate any of the issues. They know what the right answers are and any dissenting opinion will either confuse, irritate or sadden them. Yes, you will discover that their "positions" on these issues are absurd to the point of lunacy, merely repeated like a liturgy and not really reasoned out. But they can't help it. It's the price the must pay to stay on the good side of the people whose good opinion they desperately crave.

Look, I know this will be an exhausting experience, having to deal with people who live such insulated, cocooned lives in their bubbles on the coasts. But it will only be for one day, and if we just keep our heads we can send them back home without their entire world view falling apart and sending them into despair. That's what good neighbors are for.

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