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Weekend Preview May 19-24
Bob Dylan tributes, Deborah Voigt, Tom Paxton, Bill Kirchen, John Kirk and Trish Miller

Celebrating Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday in Style
Paying tribute to the greatest rock songwriter ever

FILM REVIEW: In a Better World and Of Gods and Men
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Deborah Voigt Headlines Mahaiwe Gala
Opera star to sing arias, show tunes on Saturday, May 21

Famed Spiritual Teacher to Speak on Nonviolence
Mother Maya in free talk at Sruti Yoga in Great Barrington, Mass., on Friday May 20 at 7pm

Special Effects Wizard to Be Honored by Film Festival
Doug Trumbull to be Feted by BIFF

Weekend Preview May 12-16
Cultural Highlights of the Berkshire Weekend

Talk about a small world
Elaine and I grew up together, but only just recently met....

Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
A Farewell from Publisher Michael Zivyak

twiGs Branches Out
Lenox boutique launches new e-tail site

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Us vs. WHO?

Us vs. Them

In the July 1, 2005 issue of the local weekly newspaper, The Berkshire Record, there is an op-ed column called "Real People" that while on the surface seemingly intends to pay tribute to all that is special about life here in the Berkshires, instead actually puts a veneer of exclusiveness on what can only be described as xenophobia bordering on racism.

First let me establish that I have no personal ax to grind against the author, Abby Pratt, who I knew a little bit over a decade and a half ago when we both worked at the Berkshire Eagle. In fact, in her column, Abby seems to pay tribute somewhat to Berkshire Living, the regional magazine that I edit, counting our personnel--some of whom she apparently bumped into at a recent gathering at a local watering hole (interestingly enough, one that caters in large part to weekenders, second-home owners and visitors -- what was she doing there when she could have been imbibing somewhere where the "real people" hang out?)--as properly among the in crowd of "real people."

But the gist of Pratt's column is a lament that, with the onset of the summer season, her town is taken over by outsiders whom she doesn't know.

"It's a funny feeling when the balance between people you know and people from 'away' begins to shift to the away people at certain times of year," writes Pratt [the Record is not available online, so I cannot link to the original article].

She goes on, "When it happens, I feel like a mole -- an underground spy, who connects with the people who are here all year....After a while, when things really heat up, it's as though there's been a coup in town, and I don't feel like it's the same town anymore."

Oh really? Why is that? Because there is actually some life in town? Because downtown shops and restaurants are finally packed with people spending money -- bringing money INTO town from outside, during the short, two or three months upon which many businesses in town rely to stay afloat while the rest of the year the few remaining locals shop at KMart and Wal-Mart?

No, there is something much more disturbing going on here. It boggles the mind that in the year 2005 someone could write such a blatantly xenophobic piece pitting "them" vs. "us." What is this resentment against outsiders all about? What do these sorts of sentiments remind you of? What is this about a "coup" in town? Who is taking over, and what is Abby Pratt afraid of?

Substitute "black" or "Latino" or "immigrant" for Pratt's vague, unnamed specter, the non-native species (she never actually names them; she just refers to "natives and near-natives," allowing readers to complete the formula themselves), and one can easily see how dangerously Pratt is playing with fire.

And of course, as we all know, the truth is a large percentage of the summer weekenders and visitors to Southern Berkshire, and the Berkshires at large, are from the New York metropolitan area, and a large percentage of those are Jewish.

Only 60 years after the resentment of Jews vs. "the Real People" -- in that case, the Volk of Germany -- led six million Jews into death camps and gas chambers, how can someone seemingly otherwise intelligent and sophisticated succumb to base nativism and xenophobia, pouring gasoline on the embers of a fire that once and for all must be permanently extinguished.

I don’t understand the victim complex of Abby Pratt, the Berkshire Record writer.

I suggest she see Eytan Fox’s brilliant movie, Walk On Water, or take a visit to warm and welcoming New York City, if she wants to learn about breaking down borderlines and becoming one peaceful inclusive non-homogenous world.

Come on!!!! Get with it!!!

We are all from someplace else! Many of our relatives came here to escape war and the endless human struggle of borderlines!!

The artists and musicians we welcome into town love the Berkshires because the area is lovely and the people are friendly and interesting.

Don’t be a snob. Isn’t it time to stand up and be proud of what we have made for ourselves here.

I have had a business in Great Barrington for 11 years. When I opened, there was a tumble down graffiti filled roller rink where the Tri-Plex Movie theater now stands. The parking lot in front of it was a barren of weeds dotted with broken down cars.

Those of us who have been pioneers in the struggle (yes, struggle!) to make this area safe and educational for our children and fellow citizens, are proud of what we have accomplished. We celebrate the revitalization of our town and are thrilled to show it off.

We would not survive winter after winter without the help of the curious tourists and weekenders who come because they appreciate our efforts. It is a welcome season when “strangers” enliven our streets with conversation and business. It is then that the seeds of efforts reap the rewards that carry us through the winter.

It’s time that the local press and the local population honor the efforts we have made as a community. Pat the backs of the pioneers who have worked hard to make the Berkshires a safe and beautiful place to live. Celebrate what we have and honor anyone who shares in our good fortune.

Abby needs to know that her “ mole” attitude is not good for any of us in Berkshires. I encourage her to understand that we are all strangers in this world, but with a little effort we can all be friends.


I have read Abby's "Real People" op-ed and feel that it rambles on back and forth between the recognition of John and her perseptions of people who are not "real". She has a pad in NYC and another in Maine so I wonder how it feels for her when the shoe is on the other foot?
Seth, I think that your comments are way off the mark. Abby is a Jew and she has been very caring about the incoming imigrant population. She was instrumental in creating a fund that helps new families from Asia and Latin America find items ranging from clothing to housing.
Thanks to the BE article this AM I found your site and look forward to reading more, Thanks!

I guess I fall somewhere inbetween. I used to be in the travel business, and got very upset when clients would make comments like "THEY aren't very friendly down there" (meaning the Caribbean.) I stopped one comment once by saying "You know, people in the Berkshires aren't too happy about being invaded by New Yorkers every year, because we wish we could run our economy without tourism. But the reality is that we can't. And 95% of the New Yorkers who visit are wonderful. It's only 5% who give the rest a bad name. Well, that's how it is in the Caribbean. They wish we wouldn't visit, and that they didn't need our money, but 95% of tourists (I was being polite not to rile these people...it's probably more like 60%....)are very nice, it's just 5% who act like Ugly Americans."

But it's also true that I have noticed my own attitudes change over 25+ years here. Coming from a city, I wanted things to move faster, be more "avant garde" and to transplant aspects of my big city life to the Berkshires. There are still times that I regret that we are ten years behind everything (not style or fashion but old-fashioned ideas like the equality of women and grassroots activism...)but over the years I have found myself shaking my head at traffic jams, materialism, lack of environmental awareness (where do those people think their trash GOES? Not one of them has ever been to a dump/landfill/transfer station) and appreciating our sense of community, connectedness and appreciation for the small things in life (like crocuses in April!)

It IS different here. So when we go "away" we should appreciate the richness of urban life, but when "they" come "here" rather than commenting patronizingly on what a "jewel" the Berkshires is (sure it is, if you don't have to find a way to make a living! sorry...that just slipped out...)I hope our urban visitors DO take time to smell the roses and consider that there just might be a road not taken in their own lives.

...Walt Kelly

“In the time of Joseph McCarthyism, celebrated in the Pogo strip by a character named Simple J. Malarkey, I attempted to explain each individual is wholly involved in the democratic process, work at it or no. The results of the process fall on the head of the public and he who is recalcitrant or procrastinates in raising his voice can blame no one but himself."

An introduction to Pogo Papers, published by Simon and Schuster in 1952-53, said in part:

"...Specializations and markings of individuals everywhere abound in such profusion that major idiosyncrasies can be properly ascribed to the mass. Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of the cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle."

"There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us."

As years passed, the final paragraph was reduced to “We have met the enemy and he is us,” in a few strips having to do with pollution.

The Best of Pogo, Edited by Mrs. Walt Kelly and Bill Crouch Jr. A Fireside Book, published by Simon & Schuster, Copyright 1982 by Walt Kelly Estate

Submitted by DLM


I found Abby Pratt's column appalling, and agree with most of Seth's points. But I find the suggestion of anti-semitism an unfortunate, inflammatory distraction from an otherwise really important issue. (While I do agree that the complaints about "those new yorkers" often sound like CODE for "those awful jews", I really didn't get that from Pratt's column. Hers sounds like the much more garden-variety small-mindedness of someone who's just fallen victim to lazy thinking.)

Anyway, I would add:
1. Lately I've been hearing these complaints more and more from people who only recently arrived themselves, and seem to want to shut the door behind them. Disgusting!
2. in response to one reader's comment, the people who live here year-round can be just as environmentally thoughtless and hostile as the visitors. Guess what: most of the year-round residents DO NOT buy their food in bulk at the co-op, DO NOT reduce/reuse/recycle as much as they should, and they drive enormous SUV's and gas-guzzling Ford Expeditions around town to pick up the dry cleaning.
3. Rudeness, bad driving and obnoxious behavior are by no means limited to (or even more prevalent among) the visitors. The "real people" can be really awful too. If we see more examples of rudeness during the summer it's just because there's MORE people around, not because "those people" are rude.

You know what? We live in a beautiful, culturally rich area! is it so surprising that people want to come and visit? Why can't we just be grateful to live here, take pride in our communities, welcome our visitors and just get over our provincial little pettiness?

I'm the Abby Pratt in question. I was born in New York City and lived there till I was 12, when we moved to a nearby non-exclusive suburb; my mother still lives there. And guess what? We're Jewish. And I took some money my father left me and put it into a nonprofit organization that helps new immigrants (like my paternal grandparents) in the Berkshires. So I don't get Seth's take on my column, which was simply intended to convey the feeling many South Berkshire people have about the seasonal glut of tourists in the place where we live.

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