Our area neighbors are not the enemy

Sunday voices: Ruminations

What is the difference between prejudice and snobbery? Is it just a matter of degree?

Prejudice is defined, in part, as “injury or damage resulting from … disregard of one’s rights; a preconceived judgment or opinion.” A snob, by comparison, is “the attitude of people who think they are better than other people; an offensive air of superiority.”

There has always been a sort of rivalry among the towns and villages in our little corner of the world. Sports teams, back when everybody had some, were rivals and occasionally came to blows after a hard fought game. But what concerns me is the prejudice, or snobbery if you prefer, of some village residents against other villages.

Perhaps Fredonia (as a community) looks down on Dunkirk. Perhaps Brocton thinks they’re better than Portland. Does Westfield think they are superior to Ripley? I’m not saying any of these scenarios are real; just examples.

In a country as polarized as America is today, can we afford to feed our prejudices against our neighbors? By any standard, Chautauqua County is a poor county. The “Buffalo Billions” may trickle down to a few of the towns and villages in our county, but not likely enough to make a real difference in our standards of living.

Instead a harboring animosity toward others, shouldn’t we be working together for the good of ALL of us? A newly opened business or service should be supported by many communities, not just the one where it is located. A building project or renovation should be heralded by the communities at large for making improvements to the health and welfare of residents. A struggling entrepreneur should expect backing and encouragement from other established businesses in the area. Success for one can bring success for all — in a better world.

As a Ripley resident, I am well aware of the attitudes, prejudices, and snobbery of some of our neighboring communities. Ripley used to be a thriving little town, back in the heyday of the ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s. Misfortune visited the town in the guise of Interstate 90, allowing traffic to speed by on its way to “somewhere,” and a devastating fire that virtually wiped out the downtown businesses. Those events, combined with a few residents who “didn’t want things to change,” allowed Ripley to wallow in self-pity and ennui for decades.

But times, they are a-changing, my friends. Ripley is on the cusp of a new era of prosperity. An ever-growing group of citizens are diligently working to improve this corner of the state.

Grants are being requested, and approved, for Main Street revitalization, lake front improvements, and building renovations. No longer will Ripley be the forgotten stepchild of the county. We are the Gateway to New York along three major east-west highways. Although progress comes slowly, it will come. In the (paraphrased) words of Richard Nixon, “you won’t have (Ripley) to kick around anymore.”

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com