Report from Leisureville: not very welcoming
By George Erickson
Special to the Star-Banner
Sunday, October 2, 2011
THE VILLAGES — When my wife and I sought relief from our northern winters, we checked out Phoenix and Tucson, but found them much too dry. Next came Florida, which primarily consists of swamps, jungles, strip malls and retirement communities, one of which is modestly called The Villages.
"You have to see it," said a friend. "It's inland, far away from all those hurricanes! You'll have lots of flowers and great landscaping plus an endless choice of restaurants. There's a ton of excellent stores, not to mention a gaggle of golf courses, tennis courts, cultural activities and a wealth of affinity groups with varied interests."
We sent for their cute cardboard "briefcase" and their captivating DVD that provided a tour of The Villages — and, surprise! — a cameo for George W. Bush. Hmmmm.
Oh, well, we thought. That's just marketing. Little, as they say, did we know.
We came. We bought. We furnished. We loved our house, our fruit trees and our big lot with no neighbors behind us.
However, we soon learned that the local radio station was "fair and balanced" — just ask them — and the newspaper, which published cartoons of President Barack Obama drawn with bile, relentlessly featured the acid-etched comments of Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Oliver North, a convicted-but-pardoned felon who, along with Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich, know just how our country should be run.
And then, because The Villages is an obligatory stop for neo-conservatives on cross-country trips, came the book signings at Barnes & Noble. We've had Mike Huckabee, Beck and Sarah Palin, and even George W. Bush, our self-described "warrior president," our lofty ex-decider-in-chief who told a Texas reporter during his first campaign, "If I'm elected president, I'm going to invade Iraq."
So, in an attempt to learn why people would stand in line to praise someone who abetted torture, invaded a sovereign nation and violated the Geneva Convention, I wandered down to the signing to mingle with the crowd, many of whom had erected holiday yard signs proclaiming that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" — not "my" reason or "a" reason, which would be understandable, but "the" reason. Take that, you nonfanatics. But despite all the flags and the chattering, smiling faces, I found only hostility. Wasn't Jesus the Prince of Peace? You know, the "Thou shalt not kill" guy?
The Villages Daily Sun, which is the print version of Faux News, had wasted plenty of space on Bush's face-saving, semi-fiction book. So, for balance, I requested an article explaining how the same people who harassed President Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair would be eager to enrich a man whose fraudulent, trillion-dollar war has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced two million more at the cost of 5,000 dead American troops, 31,000 wounded and an epidemic of post-traumatic stress cases that have raised military suicides to record heights.
That was months ago, and I'm still waiting.
More recently, we learned of the impending visit of Fox News and also Christine O'Donnell, the nonwitch, probably to be followed by Ann Coulter, the genuine article, which is just too much.
We have thrown in the towel. I'll miss the good folks who enliven the World Affairs Club and the Civil Discourse Club, which my free-thinking friend Mike Enright and I founded, but it will be a pleasure to return to Minnesota, a land of truly balanced reporting where scholarships come before warships and where our only real embarrassment is a first-rate religious fanatic named Michelle Bachmann.
George Erickson is a retired dentist and former board member of the American Humanist Association who formerly resided in The Villages.