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.