The term "carpetbagger" recently has been used here in Plainfield by an appointed councilwoman to denigrate the hiring of individuals who reside outside the city boundaries of Plainfield and yet who work here, as if they are not entitled to have a job in our city if they are qualified. I have heard her use this word several times in public statements. See Plainfield Today's post on this here.
Historically, the word was used in the aftermath of the Civil War to define Northerners who went South during the Reconstruction era to profit from the rebuilding efforts and to expose them as individuals who were out to exploit a community for economic gain--it connotes exploitation, greed, opportunism, and rapaciousness. The other day, this code word was used yet again by someone who, herself, "carpetbagged" an education career in another city and county and who was paid from the tax base of that city. In terms of describing
our city employees, I view this word, "carpetbagger," as a deliberate and
inaccurate use of the term. Perhaps someone ought to pull her coat
Are the young Plainfielders who work at the Watchung Square Mall carpetbaggers? The Plainfielders who used to work at Muhlenberg but who were forced to find jobs at other hospitals in the state because of the closure of our local hospital--are they carpetbaggers?
in Newark, as a professor at Essex County College--am I a carpetbagger?
Are the county workers who commute to Elizabeth carpetbaggers? All the other residents who live in Plainfield but commute to jobs in neighboring towns, in New York City, and elsewhere--are they, too, carpetbaggers in those communities? You see what I am getting at.
To make foolish and loaded statements about the motives of individuals who work in our city government and yet who may live in other towns when one's own career was based in another city and was paid from the tax base of that city is the height of hypocrisy.
The hypocrisy continues when, at the
same time, a "pass" is given to a local individual (her friend, Malcolm Dunn) who engineered a more than $1 million dollar gift from the PMUA ratepayers to two retired
executives in a backroom deal that forced furloughs of front-line workers and others. If we examine the earlier definition I provided of "carpetbagger"--one who exploits the community for economic gain, one whose motives are driven by greed, opportunism, and rapaciousness--in the context of this backroom deal, um...never mind.
What I really see here is a smokescreen for a peculiar sort of nativism (which we see, on a national scale, directed toward President Obama by the right wing) that has long been a part of American culture. Nativism (and its close cousins, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and racism) opposes by its very nature the diversity, growth, and continued development of a city like Plainfield, just as it fanned the flames of national division in the past.
We need to reject this type of thinking in our city. We need to reject the political motivations of individuals who embrace the past, with its corruption, cronyism, and stagnation. We need to think about, and plan for, the FUTURE!