What’s the matter with Kansas Northfield? Too many of us are snobs.

snob2 Ever since Snobamagate, I’ve been thinking about the degree to which I’m a snob… and whether Northfield has more than its share of snobbish people.

Twenty-five years ago, I worked for the Faribault Public Schools as a school social worker and it struck me how frequently the snobbishness of Northfielders came up in conversations among faculty and staff who I worked with. It really grated on them. Since then, alarm bells always go off in my head whenever I hear a fellow Northfielder make a snide remark about Faribault, Dundas, or other towns nearby.

The snide remarks are nearly always made by someone with at least a college education and the target of their remarks is the one of main demographics that Clinton and Obama are fighting over for this week’s primary in Pennsylvania —  the white, working class with a high school education.

In one of the comments I added to my January blog post, Why do you love Northfield? Why should people move here?, I wrote:

I often tell people that one of the neat things about Northfield is its social diversity. Most small towns with a college or university are dominated by its presence. They become a 99% latte town as described by David Brooks in Bobos in Paradise. Northfield is 50% a latte town. Half the population aren’t bobos, and I like that. Lots of conservatives and libertarians. Lots of blue collar, working class people. Lots of religious folks. Lots of people who volunteer in ways that bobos don’t.

I think many of us Northfielders who could be seen as bobos, especially the progressive liberal elites (which, as an Obama supporter with a Master’s degree, I’m arguably one, my support for Ray Cox, Tom Neuville and appreciation of the commentaries by David Brooks not withstanding), don’t recognize our own arrogance when we deal with others in the public sphere who are ‘not like us,’ especially ‘not smart like us.’ 

I think Obama is less of a snob than I am, but there’s probably a tendency in all of us to get a little condescending when talking about others who you don’t hang out with much. Once you’re a Senator, your circle of social contacts gets pretty limited, no matter what your roots.

I drink coffee most often at GBM and the HideAway, not the Quarterback or Perkins. I drink beer most often at The Cow and Froggy’s, rarely at the L&M or Corner Bar. When I go bowling at Jesse James Lanes with my kids, I don’t usually know anyone else there. I loved the Adult Spelling Bee. I don’t watch NASCAR events. I go to art gallery openings. I drink a lot of white wine in the winter.

But most of the guys I play racquetball and ride motorcycles with hang out in a totally different circle. They’ve never even heard of Locally Grown. I’d hate to think I’d be condescending in a conversation about them but I can see how it could happen if someone asked me why none of these guys frequent LoGroNo. I could easily make the same mistake as Obama did and slip into a little psychoanalysis that could be seen as patronizing.

I really like the PBS special, People Like Us: Social Class in America, because it touches on all these class issues and opens your eyes. I think it should be shown yearly in a ‘Social Class in Northfield’ event at The Grand, even though ‘my types’ would be the only ones to show up for it.


  1. David Ludescher said:

    Chris: Griff’s suggestion was that he was a progressive liberal elite who is unable to recognize his own arrogance in dealing with people in the public sector, especially with people who weren’t as smart as he. He also suggested that Northfield was about 50% full of people like him.

    So, whether Griff is a progressive liberal elite, self-interested liberal idealist, or a bobo, is not the question. The question is whether there are too many arrogant bobos in town.

    May 4, 2008
  2. Jane Moline said:

    Bright and Nathan, you are both wrong. What the Democrats say is that we will not adopt any one religious belief as the law of the land.

    If you are against abortion, for whatever reason, you are welcome in the Democratic party–just don’t try to use it to force others to adopt religious law.

    You are welcome to attempt to persuade others to your views.

    What is most interesting in this thread is how you’all think you know what everybody else is saying better than the ones saying it. It is revealing about your own prejudices and snobbery.

    Some claim that they have an affiliation with somewhere else so they are not a Northfield snob. Right.

    I went to high school in Faribault and I live in DUNDAS. So there.

    The real question to me is: are Northfielder’s really snobs, or are “snobs” in the eyes of the beholder? i.e., do Faribault citizens think Northfielder’s are snobs, and why? Because their mom said so? Because of a personal experience?

    What experience do the people on this discussion have of snobbery? Are you snobby to people? How? How do you know if people think you are a snob–do they tell you?

    Do any of you recognize that you may be a snob?

    May 4, 2008
  3. Chris Schons said:

    Regarding abortion rights: I only brought them up because John George implied that he votes Republican because of that party’s anti-choice stand, while he also pronounced himself pessimistic on the possiblity of breaking the stranglehold of our political duopoly. I merely meant to convey that it’s too bad focusing on just the one issue meant he also ended up supporting the entirety of the Republican agenda.

    “Do any of you recognize that you may be a snob?”

    Yes, I can be a tremendous snob, depending on the context.

    I also think that right now in the U.S. citizens are more intolerant of each other than ever.

    May 4, 2008
  4. David L said:
    “So, whether Griff is a progressive liberal elite, self-interested liberal idealist, or a bobo, is not the question. The question is whether there are too many arrogant bobos in town.”

    My answer is always the same, if you are not honoring yourself, your God/gods, your family, your friends, you are wasting time. And that is the real sadness, the real shame and the real deal of it all.

    May 4, 2008
  5. Anne Bretts said:

    Jane, once again, I think it’s OK to disagree with people, but to assume you’re right and simply decree that others are wrong is what leads to the feeling that people here are snobs.
    I have seen so many other cities where people like Bruce A. and David L. and others would have sat down after the Target debacle and figured out some compromise positions to avoid a repeat. And yet issue after issue, it seems the most involved people here are more interested in proving whose position is right than in finding a plan or process everyone can back — and really bringing others into the discussion. And so years after Target and the loss of College City Beverage and the movie theater and years after the hospital decision you still are no farther along in creating a respectful inclusive process and plan — and the businesses go elsewhere and the new people shop elsewhere because they don’t have enough incentive to be involved here. Just look at the annexation thread, which now includes dozens of variations on ‘because I say so’ arguments.
    Sad, when you’re all neighbors and the town is so small. But the perfect way to keep it small and make sure no one else suits up and threatens to take your positions in the endless rematches.

    May 4, 2008
  6. Felicity Enders said:

    I’m certainly a snob. I’m over-educated, and when I drink coffee it’s nearly always a latte. But one of the things I love about Northfield is that I regularly have good conversations with people who I suspect are snobs of different stripes.

    However, I don’t feel the same about the discussion on this thread. Conversations like this make me feel unwelcome, and as such I don’t think they’re in the best interests of this town. I would hope the town would welcome just about anyone who thought highly enough of Northfield to choose to live here.

    May 4, 2008
  7. john george said:

    Anne- As always, a well thought out and expressed opinion. It’s probably good we don’t agree on everything. We might be dangerous. But, that is probably snobbery on my part.

    Going back to Griff’s original thread, (heck, after 155 posts, why not?) no one has proposed an antidote to snobbishness. I have one, but I’m sure it will stir up a hornets’ nest if I suggest it. But then, I’m just ornery enough to do that. The weather is warm, and we may as well have a few hornets buzzing.

    Phillipians 2 states this,” Have this attitude which was also in Christ Jesus, who, though He existed as God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” I think that if anyone had a right to look down upon sinful man, it was He, who, according to scripture, was without sin. He chose not to, though, and by His obedience, opened the way for sinful man to come to God. This is the gospel we preach. So, if you have a relationship with God through Jesus, you have the opportunity to embrace this same perspective of yourself toward others. This is the best antidote I have seen for snobbishness. It is called humility.

    May 4, 2008
  8. Patrick Enders said:

    Humility is an excellent virtue to embrace, irrespective of one’s religious perspective.

    May 5, 2008
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: It is well known I don’t agree with John G’s religious views, and John: you know that and accept that , but I think John had the perfect last word on this thread … humility.

    P.S. That means you ought to end it, Griff.

    May 5, 2008
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    I humbly accept your suggestion, Kiffi. Thank you, John.

    Let’s put this discussion to sleep and vow to be on the alert for ways in which our own ‘inner snob’ can sneak out and get in the way of problem-solving and community-building. Antidote: humility.

    Comments are now turned off.

    May 5, 2008

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.