Dear Mr. deBoer,

Considering that you never felt compelled to write in the Argus before now, and I rarely feel compelled to respond to responses to my work, I think we’re both breaking rules here. But I do have to defend myself from your attacks that, I think, arise largely from a misreading of my argument.

To begin with, I had never argued that Middletown is conservative. That would be patently absurd. I am aware, given that our representative is Rose DeLauro, that Middletown is a Democratic community. But as I think you saw in the recent primaries, Democratic voters are hardly homogenous, so that does not necessitate an attitude of beneficence toward Wesleyan students, who strike me as a distinctly different sort of liberal than the average Middletown resident.

Secondly, I never said Middletown was poor, only that it was “blue collar,” and contrary to what you may believe, I have reasons for believing that. The average yearly wage in Middletown is somewhere around $46,000. Considering that some “blue collar” jobs pay as much as $57,000, I think this is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the term “blue collar,” which is distinct from “poor.” Moreover, just because Middletown has officially protected “artists” and “minorities,” that does not mean that the town itself has a generally pleasant attitude toward nonconformity in the present day, or that this attitude spills over onto Wesleyan students (a nonconforming lot if ever there was one!).

Thirdly, you say that police officers do not despise nonconformity, but merely have “uniformly low opinions of people who break the law.” I don’t dispute that this is true of most police officers, but I find it to be completely inconsistent with the actions on Fountain Avenue, which I think only can be explained by some sort of resentment. I do not think that resentment is income-based, but culturally-based. I know that police officers do not fit a Marxist model, and that they are not poor, uneducated proles. As for casting them as crude stereotypes, I think most of the campus sees them that way after Fountain Avenue, but I do not pretend for a second that it applies to ALL Middletown police officers, which is one reason why I warned my peers that authority should be respected at times.

You also say that my “town versus gown” argument is pure fantasy, and that the conflict between Wesleyan and Middletown is “relatively minor.” You are right that, compared with students at other schools, we have it fairly good. But whatever else you think, rest assured that I have done some research into Middletown/Wesleyan relations, and I know that as recently as the nineties, some college guides (especially the Wesleyan student-produced College Prowler guide) warned students about entering Middletown alone or at night, because of the deep dislike the residents harbored for students. With respect, this hostility is obviously not gone, at the point at which it is barely two weeks into the semester and we already have suffered at least one incident where Public Safety felt compelled to send out an alarm. Perhaps irritation is as far as it goes with you, but that does NOT mean that all Middletown residents share your comparatively benevolent view of us. In fact, the evidence from last semester and this one show that many of them do not.

Finally, I must assure you that I was not being intentionally intellectually dishonest, but merely describing things as I see them. My piece had two theses, and you appear to have conflated them as one. Thesis one was that Middletown shows a varying degree of hostility toward Wesleyan students, that this hostility was based on a cultural divide between student and resident, and that it appears to have impacted the judgment of the officers on Fountain Avenue. Thesis two was that well-meaning, egalitarian minded Wesleyan students are ill-equipped to deal with the reality that the disparity between class cultures is more significant than the actual income disparity that exists between classes, which is why communal economic egalitarianism will only worsen conditions by trying to force mutual coexistence across this oil-and-water culture divide. I apologize for any offense, which was purely unintentional. I would hate to contribute to the antagonism that already exists, especially given that this is a time when both Middletown and Wesleyan clearly need to let our hackles down.

Comments are closed