Russia has for years been crippled by xenophobia. As the Merriam Online Dictionary states, it is the “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”Traditionally, that country felt it was preserving the legacy of the Roman Empire, “Czar” is Russian for Caesar and there has always been a deep desire by its countrymen that Russia , the Great Bear, ought to have a powerful presence on the world stage.
Except the Bear can’t shake this cultural fault. Even their foreign policy is designed to discourage anyone from approaching or infiltrating their territory.
Those who have cut through that barrier have often found the natives exhibiting a hatred of their presence fueled by fear.
Why do I bring this up? What has this got to do with Newburyport?
Because we are also gripped by xenophobia. And it runs deep in our culture. John Greenleaf Whittier cast The Curse upon our community for just such a reason informing us that it will not be lifted until our community is welcoming to outsiders.
This xenophobia is also making us lose out on much economic benefit for the general citizen.
We see models of success from other communities and we refuse to adopt it – because it was done elsewhere by ‘outsiders’.
Our chamber is peopled with many who, even as they run businesses, can’t understand why any money should be spent to lure in visitors!
We put up walls (and have for years) to any new arrival who wants to be part of our city’s community.
We put up walls to our downtown tourist economy because we hate the presence of people who drive up Green Street and down State Street. Outsiders, you see, bring “unpleasant things” to our closed community.
And yet our present economy is based on a large influx of visitors not just during high season but year round. Our booming real estate market is dependent on outsiders being highly desirous of our houses. The flow of visitors are the very life blood of our retail stores. The richer the flow, the better it is for each business owner’s balance books. It is this outsider presence that now fuels improvements to our infrastructure through parking fees and taxes raised from assessed property values. Our aesthetics and history literally fuel our health by drawing on our guest’s desire to see them. Our restaurants, as fine as they are, would have no fertile soil to prosper if it wasn’t for the intense desirability by tourists of our downtown’s looks. Locals simply are not numerous enough to keep our many facilities afloat or keep our infrastructure intact.
WE NEED OUR CITY TO BE GEARED TO ACCEPT, ENCOURAGE AND BE WELCOMING TO OUR VISITORS!
We need money spent telling the region, the country and the world that we’re here.
That is why I am putting on my website, two unusually noticeable events that will be coming up in the next six weeks. They have nothing to do with supporting our infrastructure and I might add, do nothing to promote Newburyport in itself; but they have done what most of our chamber and city functions have failed to do.
THEY HAVE MANAGED TO BRING IN A HUGE AMOUNT OF NEW VISITORS WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TO NEWBURYPORT BEFORE!
The first is one that is dear to Ann Ormond, the Chamber President’s heart, Cruisin’ in the 50’s, – and what a great response last year! A response of, “What a great place this is!” from many who came here for the first time. There were locals present and the mixing of the two groups generated a great positive energy. This year, it will be held downtown August 15th, on a Thursday from 5-8 with antique and specialty cars on display on Market Square, Pleasant Street and State.
The second will be on September 15th. The [now] Newburyport Annual Cocktail Competition. Last year, it was almost entirely peopled by outsiders! And the comments from fresh eyes about our city were very gratifying. The entire event was almost at a fevered pitch. But few locals participated because no one had been informed! This year, our visitors need to rub shoulders with our locals. Why? Because these guests are full of questions about our community. And it was so frustrating to see a great host were not getting any satisfaction from their queries.
Let’s fix that!
It is these types of events because they generate a New England-wide draw that will allow us as a city to overcome The Curse.
But only if we answer their queries with a welcoming smile!
PS. I would be remiss if I did not indicate that a great number of Newburyporters are making an effort to dispense with this xenophobia. How else would a newcomer, Senator Ives, get elected, when she had only lived here for a few years? And now has moved on to represent us at the State House. But we do have some candidates this year who want to reinforce this xenophobia. One has verbally indicated a hatred of tourists and another has put an historic plaque turned so it can’t be visible from the street. We need to cast our vote for those who want more of these visitors and avoid casting a vote for those who would chase them away!