Well, I'm sure you've all heard the news about Mr. Psycho Happy Hatchet from New Bedford. Just about a week ago, I was chatting with a neighbor of mine and I happened to mention that I grew up in New Bedford. This person was born and raised in Somerville, and like New Bedford, Somerville is very salt of the earth, blue collar-ish. It has it's share of criminal history (The Winter Hill Gang and Whitey Bulger), but I guess it's proximity to Cambridge gives it a sophisticated and progressive edge. This is especially true now since Boston is basically untouchable, real estate-wise and much of Somerville has been or is in the process of becoming gentrified. The point is, I'm pretty sure this guy didn't grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. So, I was a little shocked and slightly insulted when he replied, "I only hear about New Bedford on the news."
In recent weeks, I've obtained some pro-New Bedford merchandise. A friend of mine from high school had an art show in the SOWA section of Boston (that's south of Washington, for those not in the know) and she gave me an I (heart) NB pin which I proudly display on my handbag. My best friend who is enrolled in graduate school in New Bedford bought be a "Neue Beige" t-shirt (that's local slang for New Bedford) and I myself just purchased an I (bleeding heart) NB t-shirt. My family still lives there and despite what my grandmother always said ("New Bedford is a one horse town"), she lived there her entire life. In other words, I'm developing a new love for this city.
So, you can imagine the kick in the pants feeling I had when I heard the news. It made headlines on CNN and Yahoo!. Luckily, no one in the bar died, but he didn't get into custody without taking out a supposed hostage, an Ankansas cop and 2 bullets to the head. Nice guy. This whole thing is very American History X. I have a hard time believing that his mother was unaware of the swastikas and Nazi crap he had in his bedroom. And how on earth does such a young person attach himself to so much hatred?
I'm not going to pretend that New Bedford is void of racism, antisemitism, sexism, and homophobia. I doubt there is such a place. But, for the most part, it's diverse and relatively quiet when it comes to hate crimes. Most of the residents are poor and bond with one another because of their shared economic conditions. Gay, straight, black, white. No one is exactly raking in big bucks. I think this is one of the things that makes the city special. I know that New Bedford will recover pretty quickly from this, as it's a place with 2 perpetual black eyes, but I can't help but think that the event will only serve to further prove to people like my next door neighbor that only horrific things happen there. As if there should be a warning label on the "Welcome to" sign.