The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.George Orwell
A friend of mine is traveling the country this month with a musical production of A Christmas Carol. Having a pretty good time of it, it seems, despite the long haul of it all. Then they got to Dubuque, Iowa.
Now, Dubuque is an interesting place, for sure. A major American city in the 19th Century, it was queen of the very prosperous lead mining district that prospered in that corner of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. Later, it was a big player in the barge and railroad shipping of grain from the incredibly productive farms of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, and a center of industry. There are immense mansions on the scenic river bluffs dating back to the gilded age.
It’s only hundred miles from us. We visited it a few years ago on a little BnB excursion along the river. We got to ride the ricketiest funicular ever (and we’ve collected a few), and then I won about three hundred bucks at a casino on the decently restored waterfront, which was helpful.
Dubuque, a city of only 70,000 now, has four colleges and three seminaries. This substantial academic influence helps fuel the historically left-leaning political atmosphere that Dubuque shares with towns up and down the river–in stark contrast to the politics of agrarian Iowa. This has earned the city the nickname of “The State of Dubuque”, a kind of thing we in the “People’s Republic of Madison” are quite used to.
And yet, to Madison and Dubuque, the folks come in droves, looking for something fun to do, and as they deal with the already ripe mix of urban socialists and proud patriots from the nearby countryside that make up the service industry… well… welcome to the front lines of the culture wars.
Now, beyond an occasional disgust of ponytails on grown men, we didn’t get a lot of that on our visit, but I’m guessing there was something about the composition of my friend’s little troupe that struck a nerve in Dubuque.
From the hotel, to the restaurants, and even at the auto center at Wal-Mart, they were hassled and lied to. Ridiculous lies. Lies that the hotel rooms had the Jacuzzi tubs that weren’t there kind of lies. Preposterous lies. “Whatever you want, I’m going to bald-face lie to you until you get mad enough to leave or belligerent enough that I can call the cops” kind of lies.
My friend was, and I think remains stunned by this experience. Why in that place? Why would the management of a boutique hotel and a Wal-Mart condone this abuse? What was so different from a day earlier in Arkadelphia, Arkansas and all the previous stops along the way that made this abuse so suddenly systematic?
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