(I don’t know if Sullivan County is in the coverage area for Bob Beierly’s publication OUR TOWN, but here on the PA side of the river you can’t swing a cat without hitting one of his stands. A longtime feature of local life in Wayne and Pike Counties, this free magazine combining right-wing politics and sometimes salacious humor has recently begun expanding its reach into Orange County, parts of New Jersey and other areas. In his front-page editorials and stories, Bob presents himself as an unapologetic “conservative Christian patriot,” by turns sentimental and confrontational – sometimes controversially so – and judging by the number of ads he sells, his audience just eats it up.
(The “Patriot Connectors” describe themselves as an “informal patriotic discussion group” that has been meeting for the past three years or so. They have a website at www.patriotconnectors.com. They recently hosted an appearance by Mr. Beierle, which I happened to attend, and which inspired the following.)
Publisher, OUR TOWN
Dear Bob –
Kudos on your appearance at the “Patriot Connectors” meeting at Wallenpaupack High School on August 14. I knew I was in for an interesting experience when we pulled into the parking lot and found it packed to the gills – clearly, many of your readers were eager to see you in person and put a face to the words they read in your publication. You must have been very gratified by the turnout, and with the enthusiastic reception you received. So, sincerely, congratulations.
You wouldn’t have noticed me in the near-overflow crowd … I was only one of many balding and bearded fat white guys in attendance. I saw a few younger couples, some with kids in tow, but mostly the audience was elderly. You may have noticed that rising out of the narrowly spaced seats to stand for the Pledge and the opening prayer was a bit of a struggle for some of us.
(Why weren’t there more younger people, do you think? … And can you make the kind of change you want to make without them?)
You quickly endeared yourself to the crowd, introducing your lovely wife and displaying a kind of aw-shucks humility. (Bringing your “cuss jar” on stage was a nice touch… it gave you a certain license … though maybe you should have fed it when you got to the phrase “camel-humping” to describe the Benghazi attackers.) As you warmed up, you touched on many standard conservative tropes – immigration, the “liberal media,” Nancy Pelosi, Benghazi – but I found it interesting that you spoke John Boehner’s name with almost as much disdain as Obama’s… and that you made few if any mentions of any of the major conservative politicians. No shoutouts to Palin, no Cruz, no Rand Paul… Instead, if I understand you correctly, you see the conservative talk show hosts – Limbaugh, Hannity, Ingraham, etc. – as the people to lead your patriot tribe. Or rather, you want them to take more of a leadership role; specifically, you want them to encourage a three-day occupation of Washington DC in the spring. You think that such a display – a “million patriots on the Mall,” I believe you stated as a goal – will force the politicians to pay more attention to your concerns, and you encouraged your audience to pressure the talk show hosts towards more action. (You might recall what happened before the invasion of Iraq, when millions hit the streets not only in DC but around the world in protest, but George W. Bush blithely dismissed the numbers by saying “We don’t run this government based on focus groups.”)
I agree with you on some points – I, too, think the nation is headed in the wrong direction, though we disagree on what direction would be right, and on who’s really guiding the deterioration of the country and its democratic institutions. I agree with you that our political system has become largely unresponsive to the needs of ordinary citizens – though I note that you didn’t talk much about the moneyed corporate interests that government does respond to. I agree with you that direct action, and increased citizen involvement and participation, will be necessary to get things back on track – but why not start locally, in counties and states? You have to climb some hills before you scale those mountaintops you spoke of so passionately – why not occupy Harrisburg first, or for that matter Honesdale? Can your movement really deal with the realities of governance, in the diverse, polycultural, interconnected America of today?\
I’m very glad that I went to your talk, and I’m looking forward to more dialogue. Next month, I understand the Patriot Connectors will host independent Congressional candidate Nick Troiano. Maybe I’ll see you there.
All the best, your pal,