One week ago, The Washington Post ran a feature which started out as an examination of the city of Branson's efforts to attract a more upscale tourist. The article quickly degenerated into one stereotype after another about rednecks, Bush supporters, and all of the other people who, according to the Post writer, make up the entire population of Branson.
David Rust of Kirbyville came across my blog, looked up the Post article and fired off a response to the newspaper, a copy of which he e-mailed to me"
I found your article about Branson, Missouri in the August 8th issue quite by accident. I am glad I came across it; however, its contents were quite upsetting.
I know you were brought here by the so called bible-toting individuals of which you quote so freely. Let me tell you, this is not the Utopia they would have you believe; there are murders, drugs, Meth Labs, crime of all kinds. In fact this area probably leads the State of Missouri in drug lab raids. Why, because of the low wages, seasonal employment, lack of benefits. People who work for wages here are little more than indentured servants to the privileged. Minimum wages jobs are very plentiful, $6. and $7. an hour job are commonplace. Recently OACAC had a session where the privileged could participate in a day long session and see what it was like to live in poverty. This is the very poverty they help create and perpetuate. Benefits, and health care, no way. It just isn't here.
We Democrats are alive and well in SW Missouri. While it is true we won few seats in recent elections, we can say honestly we didn't have to have John Ashcroft blather in the Pulpit on Sunday to promote our cause.
You make note there are few African Americans here in Branson. A remark like this has no place in our society. You might be interested to know Charley Pride has performed many many times in Branson, and has a very large fan group. A well loved and respected performer. To allude to the fact that Blacks are not here or perhaps are not welcome here is just wrong!
There was a recent article in the Branson papers about the homeless that lived in the woods and under bridges around this area. This is the forgotten element of our society that these bible thumpers neither care about nor want to hear about. They want them kept out of sight, after all visitors might get the wrong idea.
So my friend, come back, talk with some of us that know the area for what it is, and what it once was, and we will open your blinded eyes and remove some of the phony "scriptures" according to St. Peter and show you the real truth about the Branson area.
2151 Deer Lane
Kirbyville, Mo. 65679
While I don't necessarily agree with Mr. Rust on all of his observations, I am happy that someone took on this preconceived notions that The Washington Post dressed up as investigative reporting.
To read The Turner Report's Aug. 8 post on the subject, go to:
http://rturner229.blogspot.com/2005/08/branson-subject-of-washington-post.html That entry also features a link to the original Washington Post article.
Dr. Fred Pfister of Branson, author of "The Insider's Guide to Branson and the Ozark Mountains" also wrote to the Post to protest the article. This is what he wrote:
It's always interesting to read a piece by outsiders about folks in Branson and the Ozarks. They tend see what they want to see, and they parrot whatever the Chamber of Commerce and town boosters provide them.
Sure, it's great living in the Ozarks, but we have our problems. It's the buckle of the Bible Belt, but not all Christians living here and visiting Branson are of the narrow, unthinking, non-birth control-using, Bush-supporting, Limbaugh-listening, FOX-watching folks Lois Romano portrays.
Lois should have seen the six people recently who walked out of a Branson theatre after a Limbaugh-type, anti-Demoncrat joke. She should visit the Branson kindergarten classes, which have 4 or 5 Hispanics in every one of the 24 classes. And she must have missed the African-Americans in audience and on our stages.
Though we welcome them, our visitors and the attendant growth have caused urban sprawl and environmental problems. The area has low wages and a seasonal labor demand. Get beyond the facade of Branson's theatres and the glitz on The Strip and you can find poverty equal to any urban area or the rural boondocks of any red state. The county has a high rate of child abuse, the highest abortion rate in the state, a high percentage of teen mothers, and more than its share of meth labs in the state infamous for ranking number one in meth lab busts in the nation.
Sure we're proud of being Ozarkers, but we are able to see ourselves for what we really are, warts and all—and not what a provincial East Coast writer who never talked to a real hillbilly and who obviously never got beyond the city limits wants to think we are.
Dr. Fred R. Pfister