VIEWPOINT: An island of snobs

An island of snobs

Dear Editor:

On the pages of the COURIER about a year ago, editor Peter Weinberger memorialized his father, Martin Weinberger, shortly after he passed away. 

Peter’s tribute to his dad was obviously deserved and heartfelt. However he cited a quote of his father’s in which he putatively “championed” Claremont by stating that Claremont is “an island of culture in a sea of slobs.” Ironically this quote does not so much illustrate our town’s virtues as much as it brings into high relief the snobby elitism for which our city “of trees and PhDs” is widely-known throughout our area.

Worse, this attitude demeans the accomplishments of the decent, hardworking citizens of surrounding cities while seeking to elevate our own residents purely on the basis of their intellectual achievements which, to me, is a questionable measure of anybody’s real worth.

The difficulty lies in the fact that a PhD is earned in an insular academic setting and often has little to do with real-life situations. Some holders of advanced degrees don’t seem to understand that their opinions on other issues (particularly politics) have no more legitimacy than those of a San Dimas medical doctor, an attorney from Glendora or an electrical engineer living in Upland.

Paradoxically in Claremont, it is especially difficult for local intellectuals to keep elevating their collective noses against a constant backdrop of silliness and over-the-top political correctness that sometimes gain the attention of even the national media.

Among such stories have been: “Even Diversity Has Its Limits:” Claremont is a city that prides itself on its appreciation of diversity. In fact, Claremont schools are almost required to “celebrate diversity” whenever possible.

However, diversity fans draw the line when it comes to one distinct group—conservatives. Witness the attacks the Preserve Claremont campaign made some years ago against a candidate for city council who was, gasp, a Republican! This did not sit well with local liberals so they, with the support of a prominent local pastor, launched a vile smear campaign in an attempt to defeat him. Diversity is ok but not on the city council for God’s sake!

The campaign reached new lows of dishonesty and mean-spiritedness with each passing day, but fortunately clear thinking residents were turned off by these tactics and the Conservative won the seat.

“No Flag Waving Allowed:” Just before Independence Day a few years ago, a sitting school board member (and teacher) “liberated” scores of American flags from the neighborhood in which he lived with the assistance of his adopted son. That was bad enough, but, in a sad display of blatant anti-Americanism, he had the gall to desecrate the flags by throwing them into the trash where they found company with banana peels, eggshells and adult diapers!

Amazingly, he later ran for reelection on the school board and won. For many Claremonters extending support and tolerance to those residents having an alternative lifestyle excuses even the most egregious behavior they might commit. I wonder if these voters felt a greater obligation to reelect such a man to office because of the guilt they might feel if it appeared they defeated him solely because of his personal orientation.

“To Protect and Serve:” One story which gained national attention was the infamous “Cookie Monster” episode in which a Claremont Mayor turned away girl scouts from selling cookies at a site she felt was unsafe even though the girls’ mothers were there to supervise. Just to make sure the girls didn’t set up shop there, the mayor even called the police! Lesson? Claremont elitists always know what’s best for us.

“Oh my God, he’s killed a tree!” Remember when the city put new traffic lights on the corner of Indian Hill Boulevard at Tenth Street? During the construction, a worker damaged a nearby shade tree seriously enough that it had to be removed. Local tree huggers went berserk with grief over the loss of this one nondescript tree. In fact, their outrage was so disproportionate that I think they would have felt better if the laborer was killed doing his job rather than to have lost a common shade tree.

In the final analysis, these Claremonters need to be reminded that it was only a tree. Grieve for humans or even your pet dog if you need to, but expressing so much grief for a tree is an excessive response.

Other stories come to mind such as the local Indian activists wanting to shut down Condit Elementary School’s annual First Thanksgiving celebration because the children weren’t wearing “authentic” Indian outfits or the Kerri Dunn debacle at the Claremont Colleges, which suspended classes for one day in order to celebrate a day of “tolerance” just prior to her arrest and prosecution for vandalizing and scribbling anti-semitic graffiti on her own car.

As a resident of Claremont, I would want outsiders to regard us as a friendly, welcoming community in a beautiful setting.

I think Martin Weinberger’s comment didn’t “champion” Claremont at all but rather drove a wedge between us and other communities. But the most troubling aspect connected to his words is that it conveys the juvenile perspective that one way we Claremonters feel good about ourselves is to put down others who live outside our borders.

Calling the residents of surrounding cities “slobs” is no way to extol the virtues of Claremont, and such name-calling only serves to turn off fair-minded people everywhere.

Michael Valentine



[Publisher’s note: Although I agreed to publish these comments, I suggest that if Mr. Valentine is so upset about living in the city of Claremont, he can always move. —PW]


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