Most of us at some time or another visit Provincetown Community Space on Facebook. It’s a good place to get information, to see what your friends are up to, and to connect with various local organizations. It’s also a great place for snide remarks, innuendo, and sheer blazing stupidity.
Godwin’s Law tells us that if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds. One of the things I’ve noticed about the trademarked Community-Space-Meltdown is that if the discussion goes on long enough, sooner or later it will devolve into who has lived here longer, as though longevity alone conferred certain wisdom or privilege.
The meltdowns can be amusing, for sure, but there’s something really dangerous, I think, in the assumption that those who have been here longest somehow “win.” In this week’s video installment of the ptownie Dispatch, Matt Clark and I joke a little about who the original settlers of Provincetown were, but the truth is that if longevity conferred rights, we’d all be speaking Wampanoag. (Whether we should be is another question.)
The danger, of course, is that this sense of place-ownership is exactly what fuels anti-immigrant and xenophobic thinking.
I’ve lived in some pretty hip places, but there are two groups of people I’ve experienced in particular where this residency one-upmanship stands out as a semi-legitimate way to score points: Provincetown residents and people who live in New York City. There’s some pretty serious constant geographical navel-gazing going on here. New Yorkers and Ptownies both find the subject of what it’s like to live in their respective locations fascinating and use it to supply an endless succession of conversational drivel.
I’m here to recall you to reality, folks: if the most prestigious, important, and meaningful thing about your life is your ability to stay in one spot for twenty years or more, then there’s something significant missing. Ptownies aren’t born: we’re a mixture of natives and washashores, people of every gender and skin color and religion. Some of us have lived here for a long time. Some of us just happened into town last week. We’re all supposed to be equal.
Let’s give up our version of Godwin’s law, because I think—I hope!—that we’re better than the horror that is our nation’s immigration policy, that we’re welcoming to strangers, that we’re willing to share whatever it is that we’ve found here at Land’s End.
And maybe we can even show that on Community Space from time to time. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.