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Even the Worst Parts of America Have Lots of Great People

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That Politico piece from last week about the horrible racism of Trump voters in Johnstown, Pennsylvania got a lot of attention, for good reason. But as we process that people today could say such terrible things, let’s also remember that there are lots of great progressives in Johnstown who are fighting with us against what we despise. And by ignoring them and calling a place like Johnstown “Trump Country,” we are marginalizing our allies.

Indivisible Johnstown, a progressive group that has held candidate forums for 2018 Democratic congressional candidates, responded on Facebook: “We are OUTRAGED that this POLITICO reporter and EVERY reporter who comes to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is only looking to tell a story of American Carnage. … Many, many citizens here are not misogynistic, racists like the Neanderthals in this article. They are working hard to make a difference.”

Mary Lou Davis, of Indivisible Johnstown, says stories like these are stereotyping Johnstown negatively. “There is such a media slant, and I am getting tired that Johnstown is getting portrayed that way,” says Davis. She says Johnstown isn’t only filled with racists and cynical residents. Davis notes that the night before the Politico article was published, Johnstown elected two African-American council members, both of whom are Democrats.

Davis says while Johnstown does have many problems typical of declining Rust Belt towns, it also has a lot to offer, like the well-established tourism and history organization, Johnstown Area Heritage Association. JAHA runs the popular Johnstown Flood Museum, a children’s museum and an outdoor music venue.

“We have a symphony, we have an art community, we host a national triple-A baseball tournament every year,” says Davis. “They painted with such a broad brush. The Politico piece just made us very very angry.”

This is fair. Forget Johnstown for a minute. In Alabama, South Carolina, and Oklahoma, there are also large parts of every community who believe in the same values the liberal and left hold. It’s not all racists. This is why it drives me nuts when people say, “We should have let the South secede!” Talk about Black Lives Don’t Matter!!! But even saying that blithely forgets that there are lots of awesome people in these places. We are a country together, Texas and Massachusetts, Idaho and California. That doesn’t mean we need to “find understanding with our opponents” or whatnot. But it does mean we need to include our allies struggling in the hard country while we are comfortable in Seattle or Providence instead of marginalizing them.

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