Microtown is miniature America. With its Main Street, 150-year old courthouse [complete with iconic clock], business district, parks, public and private schools, forty churches, one synagogue, town cops [one of whom resembles Barney Fife] and a population that goes wild for Friday night football and, of course, the Super Bowl, Microtown mirrors the good ol’ USA.
Neighborhoods are mostly segregated (except for the uncommon African-Americans that successfully navigate their way up the economic ladder against all odds to upper- crust East Side). Sure, town leaders push to make a pretense of diversity in keeping with the Declaration’s precept “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” But latent racism cannot be masked to those on the receiving end of offense. Only to individuals who desire an appearance of righteousness do the official charades absolve bias. In truth, they are nothing but hypocrites blinded by their own piety.
On the other hand, real progress was being made from the 1950s to 90s before the Tea Party took over the Town Council. The historic racial and economic faultline dating back to Civil War days had more or less become dormant. Churches were even beginning to integrate. (At least black and white congregations were holding joint Christmas pageants and concerts.)
But that was before the town elects its first African-American mayor. What appears to be a bold milestone indicating Microtown is making a major breakthrough to racial and religious tolerance ignites primeval hatred instead – especially on the south side of town.
Citizens that didn’t recognize their own prejudice prior to the election suddenly fall prey to false radio preachers who spread malicious gossip about the mayor-elect, Barry Bama. “Bama can’t prove he’s from Microtown. Therefore, he’s not legitimately elected. Where’s the boy’s papers?” (Other common insults are unrepeatable.) Although it’s indisputable he was born and raised on the outskirts of town on Hawaii Lane, they continue the lie – to stir up weak minds on the south side and a few scattered elsewhere. Propaganda wins when susceptible minds are collected into a movement.
White rightwing churches join the misinformation campaign, and soon the new Town Council cripples the city government from accomplishing anything for townsfolk – simply to make Mayor Barry Bama look bad. The town is essentially paralyzed, the streets fall into disrepair, schools underfunded, city workers furloughed or fired, and the Council threatens to shut the town down altogether.
How does the Town Council get taken over by crazies? Three words: White Religious Right. One would rationalize in the 21st Century mythical religiosity would be in decline. But quite the contrary.
Microtown’s white churches (mostly on the south side) are popular. Why? They value “marketing” and understand the power of emotion, while the more historic churches in the north, east and west neighborhoods are comparatively dignified and less rigid in their teachings. The southern churches are appealing with their seductive music, firm beliefs, and strong family ties; so whenever their ministers make an appeal for community action, members are energized by embedded absolutism – their marching orders are from God and all others are from Satan.
Therefore, elections are skewed in favor of the energized, hateful southern neighborhood because they vote as one with religious fervor while many in the other neighborhoods sit home unconcerned their town is soon to be devoured by religious kooks. The intellectual class assumes changing demographics will counter the inflamed radicals and the younger generation will reject ignorant myths from the past. It couldn’t be so wrong.
An F-4 tornado whips through the northeastern quarter of town destroying two blocks of houses, killing 4. To the outrage of most citizens, council members from the south side vote to withhold funding for relief and rebuilding. It was only 7 years before when another F-4 had struck, but on the south side. Unlike the current catastrophe, all sections of Microtown came to the south’s rescue, never questioning funding for such a common natural disaster.
One can see the widening gap, the polarization.
But what’s the solution?
Until the southern neighborhood comes to its senses or more reasonable townsfolk from other sections of town along with their more sedate churches display as much energy as the fearful haters / naysayers, Microtown is on the path to failure. Schism kills.