Community: The Blind Spot of Snobbery

Why would anyone disrespect an 85-year-old who writes five columns per week at a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper? Snobs make me smile except when they are mean like this. In their quest for popularity or prestige, they miss the joys of humanity and community.

What is Marilyn Hagerty’s crime? She complimented Olive Garden restaurant: “The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway.” Oh, for shame!

The wanna-be hip Minneapolis City Pages mocked Hagerty as a “genius” whose “evocative” writing has an “understated yet wistful tone … reminiscent of a William Carlos Williams poem.” Writer Kevin Hoffman has since totally about-faced: “I apologize if my enthusiasm seemed sarcastic rather than genuine.” Then the snobs dogpiled with their condescension.

Overwhelming the Herald’s record of 6,000 hits for a column, Hagerty has passed 300,000 hits. Today Hagerty appeared on “CBS This Morning Saturday.” She said, “Somebody told me I’d gone viral, and I had to ask, ‘What’s that?’ I never thought I’d be viral. I’ve been a lot of other things but never viral.” She has also been approached by morning news shows at NBC and ABC along with “Piers Morgan Tonight.”

When Hagerty’s 15 minutes of fame subside, she will return to the satisfaction of living in community. Twenty-five years ago, when I wrote obituaries and crime reports at the Herald, Marilyn was a faithful columnist. She had already been working as a journalist for 35 years. She is deeply integrated into her town. While her son Bob writes for the renownedWall Street Journal, Marilyn will write for the Grand Forks Herald and dwell among friends.

Hagerty’s haters will continue to struggle for popularity and prestige. Snobs are thrilled to achieve upper crust status—call it the top 10%. However, then they feel excluded by the top 5%, so they strive for that level. Reaching this elite stratum, they hope that satisfaction will come to them when they reach the top 2% or the celebrity of the 1%. Their quest is futile, but they discover it too late.

To raise the stock of one’s chic, one cheap tactic is to demean a person or a region that is out of step with hip. This week the target was Marilyn Hagerty, but she’s not the one I pity.


About Ben Unseth

Executive Director at Project Understanding (2014-2017), social service agency in Ventura, CA
This entry was posted in culture, public square, Uncategorized, values and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Community: The Blind Spot of Snobbery

  1. I hope I’m that spunky at 85!!

  2. HalfNorsk says:

    Those of us who live 40 miles from an Olive Garden think that Marilyn is a top-crust sophisticate and that Grand Forks is a major metropolis. Our town boasts two bars, a nifty cafe that’s open only till 2 p.m., and a pair of convenience stores that will sell you a thawed-out microwaved sandwich. But we know each person on our street, and should you ever mistakenly drive through Lester Prairie, MN, don’t be surprised when other drivers wave at you.

    • Ben Unseth says:

      Greenwich Village cannot even conceive of the relational web of your village. You live in a geographical community in synch with a human community. Folks in suburbia and concrete jungles spend their whole lives struggling to construct a relational web that is yours by geographical default.

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