Now, the five-story structure is a tourist site. It was on the first floor, while drinking Reading root beer, that I met City Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz, who had seen Obama speak that morning in front of about 2,500 at the high school (for anyone wondering, I did catch Hillary at the University of Pennsylvania the night before the vote; if I have a chance to see McCain come general election time, I’ll do that, as well).
“What’s the big issue in town?” I asked.
There are two: the economy, stupid, and the changing face of the city. On the former: The pagoda, a sort of local landmark lit Christmas-style during the holidays “So Santa can find Reading,” is not having an easy go of it these days. I got the feeling Goodman-Hinnershitz was using the building as a symbol. I guess folks aren’t sightseeing and shopping as vigorously as they once did.
On the latter: Reading, which is about 55% white, is growing more diverse. Latinos are settling there. Some of the townspeople are none too glad.
“They are seeing their city change,” Goodman- Hinnershitz said.
Some, she said, have legitimate concerns about illegal immigrants. Others don’t make a distinction between illegal immigrants and Latino citizens.
The others, I took it, are the problem. In public debate, and this extends to the Internet, emotions elbow out reason. People are shouting (the web equivalent is ALL CAPS), not speaking — or listening.
After seeing hundreds of ridiculous postings lead us at the Daily Pilot to implement a registration process on our website, it did to me. I read more than a few spirited-but-civil electronic discourses swerve from disagreement to disagreeable, and worse.
I also saw more than a few moderate and well-reasoned voices on every side of the issue drop out of those conversations
And I thought of the City Council banning soccer at Paularino Park, a not-so-subtle move — errant soccer balls are dangerous, some said — to drive out Latino illegals and Latino citizens, never mind the difference.
Zero tolerance on soccer, you could say.
At any rate, I climbed the stairs to the top tier overlooking Reading and about 30 miles of trees and meditated on that one for a while.
BRADY RHOADES is the Daily Pilot’s managing editor. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (714) 966-4607.