Greensboro’s Growth Is Emotionally Stunted
I need to preface this column with a statement of fact: Greensboro has been very good to me and my family. I bought my first new car here and also my first home. Two of my children were born here and my career has flourished as well. It’s safe. It’s clean. It’s pretty.
But sometimes I’m left with the overwhelming impression that this place is still a jerkwater cow town with deep-seated fears of progress, change and self-reflection, and also a lack of sophistication that may eventually prove to be its undoing.
Let me explain by way of a few examples.
Last night I went to the Vince Neil after-party at Greene Street after the Motley CrÃ¼e show. It was a nice affair, with a good crowd and lots of action. But when Vince showed up, you’d have thought there was royalty in the room. The crowd swarmed five and six deep around the VIP section where he stood, people flailing their arms and shouting his name. Some of them were trying to touch him. The mouth-breathers didn’t clear the area until about half an hour after Vince had left the building. It was embarrassing.
Now I realize that not a lot of famous people make it through town and that Vince Neil is revered as some sort of heavy metal demigod in some circles, but jeez people, take the straw out of your mouth, buckle up your overalls and have a little respect for yourself. If a B-lister like Vince can incite such a reaction, imagine what would happen if a real celebrity, say Don Dokken, stopped by the Green Bean for a hot chai. We would probably call off school and throw a parade.
I’m also dismayed by the public reaction here to the proposed North Carolina lottery. ‘“Ooh, the lottery,’” the simps are saying, ‘“that’s gambling. We can’t have gambling here. That’ll make us just like Vegas and Atlantic City. Next thing you know, there’ll be dancing.’”
A news flash: the lottery will not transform us overnight into a sleaze pit. We won’t all have to get boob jobs and pinky rings, nor will Elm Street become the site of a mob war. Though as someone who has spent quite a bit of time in both Vegas and AC, I opine that we could use a little of that glitz and excitement here. But I’m not holding my breath. Last word on the lottery: If you don’t like it then don’t buy a ticket, but don’t come crying to me when your lucky numbers roll in and you’ve got nothing in your hand but your inflated sense of moral outrage.
Speaking of moral outrage, I’m carrying a bit of it around myself these days after the city council weighed in on the Truth and Reconciliation business, voting not only to stay out of the search for answers concerning the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, but to oppose the process itself.
What’s up with that?
Truth and reconciliation are good things. It probably even says so in the Bible. So why are we as a community so afraid to open the can of crap and see what crawls out? People are dead. Lives have been affected. Questions remain. What’s wrong with taking a deeper look at the shootout between the Nazis, the Klan and the communists? What are we afraid of? What are we hiding?
‘“That was a long time ago,’” I’ve heard people say. ‘“Why would you want to bring up such unpleasantness?’” And another: ‘“Most of you weren’t even living here at the time.’”
True, I’m one of those Greensboro residents who is ‘not from around here,’ and if I was I probably would have shaken the dust of this town from my boots and split for higher ground the day I turned 18. But this fact notwithstanding, I live here now. And I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.
And I’m not alone.
Things are changing around here. New people from all over move to town every week, bringing in their own values and ways of doing things. The demographic is shifting. The old-boy network is breaking down. Greensboro is experiencing some growing pains that will bring it from the kind of town where people clap when the trains pass through to a truly progressive and enlightened city where we question our motives and work through our differences.
And to longtime residents of the city, this must be the scariest prospect of them all.
To comment on this Crashing the Gate, e-mail Brian Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.