I'm from Quincy, Massachusetts. It's a small city south of Boston. It boasts America's only full-time Uncle Sam impersonator, and seething racial and ethnic tensions, which may be right about to erupt.
In the past fifteen years, there has been significant Asian immigration to Quincy. These immigrants have had a fundamental impact on the city; an impact that has in part contributed to a revitalization of the city. Vacant commercial real estate, once a visual and economic blight on the city, becomes filled with new businesses: Bakeries, laundries, bridal shops, hair salons. In the cavernous empty space left by Bradlees came a sparkling new grocery store, department store, bank, and retail space.
But there was significant push-back against the immigrants. The standard complaints were heard: The immigrants 'take up' too much space in the classrooms. They receive too many services. They don't maintain their houses and yards to neighborhood standards. They don't want to integrate. Their cooking smells different. These allegations were no more or less true than they were when made against Irish immigrants, or Italian, or Hispanic.
For a while, the ethnic tensions seemed to quiet down.
Until the flag. The Quincy Chinese Business Association purchased a new sign for their building. And they put up, along with other banners and flags, the flag of the People's republic of China. Letters were written to local Quincy papers about the "commie" flag. The business association did not remove it; it is, after all, the flag of China. The protests started on Saturday. At the main intersection in the Wollaston Section of Quincy, one of the more heavily Asian neighborhoods (and the one I grew up in), a protest sponsored by a Vietnam Veteran's group, clogged traffic and drew a significant police presence. The signs carried were inflammatory: We don't negotiate with terrorists. No Commie Flags in Quincy.
I can't really convey the dangerous feeling in that neighborhood, MY neighborhood. I wish I had photographs of the protest, and the signs. The feeling of anger in those men; the feeling of intimidation experienced walking by them, to get to the bank. I have watched my hometown change. I have watched the people change; I've watched people who were once tolerant, reasonable, begin spewing irrational, paranoid hate when discussing their new neighbors. It's sickening. And it makes me nervous.