Someone should write a book, call it: In Modesto We Trust.
That’s one take-away from Ann Coulter’s much anticipated, much deliberated and tepidly celebrated visit to Modesto on Friday. A few more.
Getting it right: Modesto police – with help from the Sheriff’s Office, private security and even the FBI – was prepared for any bad thing that might happen. That nothing did is due, at least in small part, to their preparation. More likely, it had more to do with Modesto’s frame of mind. There is no shortage of people who feel strongly about Donald Trump (pro and con), immigration (for and against), taxes (necessary or a burden – or a necessary burden) and Coulter (brilliant beacon of freedom or hate-spewing nativist shrew).
Regardless, those who came downtown kept their emotions in check. They almost seemed to enjoy each other’s company, posing for pictures, debating and discussing. Only occasionally did it get loud. One Oakdale fellow brought a lawn chair and a bucket of popcorn.
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Get lost? Four or five skinheads and a few anti-fascists apparently arrived at Centre Plaza after the show inside had begun. Maybe they got stuck in traffic coming over the Altamont, or didn’t recognize the Modesto turnoff.
Musical interlude: At a restaurant across the street, a band opened with “Give Peace a Chance.”
Wish I had written that: Radio-talker Kevin Fox MC’d this fundraiser for the Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin Republican central committees. He got in a dig – thanks for the boos; means you’re reading. But Fox didn’t stop with the room’s easiest target. “Jeff Denham’s here tonight, will Jeff stand up?” Fox called out. When Denham (who’s in Washington D.C.) didn’t, Fox finished: “Someone must have told him it was a town-hall meeting.”
Money diet: Is it easier to remain so thin when you don’t mind biting the hands that feed you? Odious as much of what Ann Coulter says, her willingness to make even her fans uncomfortable is, well, oddly admirable. “The RNC has been forcing Republicans to take suicidal positions,” she intoned, meaning moderate positions that many in the audience likely share. She recommended Republicans “talk to the maid sometime,” as if they don’t. She chastised “big Republican donors” for bringing cheap labor into the country, perhaps referring to farmers. Maybe that’s why applause was so often muted.
You know you’re a racist when …: Just because you don’t use ethnic slurs doesn’t mean you’re not a racist. When Coulter says stuff like, “Never before in human history has one country decided to turn itself into another country – no offense to Mexico; love the food,” she’s engaging in race hate. Throw in phrases like “invasion” and “anchor babies,” and you get the picture. Maybe that’s why she offered a preemptive defense: “All (critics) can say is ‘racism.’ ” Well, if the Blahnik fits, you gotta wear it.
Left her heart in … : “Great to be here in Berkeley,” is how Coulter opened her remarks, which got some laughs. But think about it: Though she was booked to come here before she added a gig in Berkeley, that other city by the Bay remained uppermost in her mind. Modesto was a paycheck; but Berkeley helped build her brand.
Right about this: “We’re losing our bravest American men in these wars.” Saying she was originally gung-ho for war in Iraq, now “it’s hard for me to think of a war in a long time that has been in our best interests.” Did she stay too long in Berkeley?
Going too far: “North Korea is China’s problem; North Korea is Japan’s problem. Mexico is America’s problem.”
Going further: “You need more of the third world moving in so that people recognize it’s a problem – but not so many that you’re California.”
Really? Did you look around, Ann? Did you do any research before cashing that $25,000 check? There is greater diversity in our Northern San Joaquin Valley communities than any you’ll find in Berkeley or Washington or even your hometown of New York City. Yet instead of throwing you out, refusing to let you speak or beating up on each other, we held a weird sort of Valley party with signs, music, horses and popcorn.
What made this event what it was – mostly peaceful, exuberant, challenging yet civil – was the presence of so many people of different colors, backgrounds and heritages deciding they wanted to communicate with their fellow Americans.
As much as Ann Coulter doesn’t want to believe that, as much as she would “send back” the babies of immigrants, close the borders, arrest people for the crime of aspiration; as much as Ann Coulter hates California’s crazy quilt of colors and colorful people, Modesto is proof that we all can contribute, we all belong and we all can get along – even if a little uncomfortably at times.
In an unintended consequence of having Coulter in Modesto, maybe we got to know ourselves a little better.