The signs are all over town here in Holliston. “Casi-no!” with emphasis on the “no!” Folks put them on their lawns as a show of emphatic non-support for the idea of a casino, not here in Holliston but in Milford, the next town over. I’ve not partaken of the lawn sign business myself on a couple of accounts. I actually don’t have a lawn first and foremost and if I did I’ve got to admit I’m just not all that dead set against them having whatever they decide they want in Milford. I’m no expert in the details, but as I understand it the Milford development as proposed is to be located on land just over the line from Holliston with fairly direct access to Route 495. Thusly it seems relatively well situated for what they nowadays call a “destination casino resort experience” or some such. Not my cup of tea personally, but to each his own.
What any town does on one side of the line is going to have some impact upon the town on the other, I understand that. But with the Milford site’s direct arterial connection to 495 one could imagine the impact on Holliston being minor, even beneficial with some prudent planning decisions. To talk to some of the folks who oppose the casino, though, you would think this one proposal is the camel’s back breaking straw that will see our little version of Bedford Falls (It’s a Wonderful Life) start upon its sad decline into Pottersville —flashing lights, gunfire and floozies flouting feather boas in the streets —dead gangster’s clogging our scenic lake in their cement overshoes.
The first time I ever encountered this fervent opposition I was sitting in a room of like minded liberals. The book club discussion had wound down and the topic came up. One of our participants was selling the lawn signs. I admitted to not sharing in the zeal and I quick found myself surrounded and being accused of uncaring disregard for the plight of compulsive gamblers, crime run rampant in the streets, etc. I pointed out this is a Foxwood’s Resort Casino we’re talking about, that my mom —not exactly a gun moll for the mob— used to ride the Senior Center chartered bus to Foxwoods in Connecticut with her friends. A good friend of mine had told me about catching some pretty good music acts there. I was lectured then at length on the corrosive social costs of gambling. I had to ask at that point if anybody was prepared to stand at Town Meeting and move that the town not accept any lottery money from the state. About then I was told the lighting of this casino was such that to support it, or even not oppose it avidly enough, was to evince a craven disregard for starlight.
It was about then I concluded that there was some plane the Casi-No! crowd was operating on that I simply couldn’t fathom or navigate. And I swam for shore.
Then I came across this piece in my favorite local online community news site, There’s Nothing to Worry About: A Satire. The author waxes sarcastic at what he sees as the logical inconsistency in the traffic study and recent presentation of proposed roadway improvements involved in the casino proposal. That’s fine. I see some inconsistency in the logic of his critique just as well. Reasonable folks can disagree. But then came this little tidbit all wrapped up in the same swift sarcasm of the rest of this satire:
As for other impacts, frankly, they go under the heading of “None of Your Business.” Still, we can rest assured: our property values won’t go down, they’ll go up. Only a handful of employees’ kids will end up enrolling in grades K-12, and they’ll all speak the King’s English. Crime will actually go down, because there’ll be more police. And the project is quite modest in size, really. Tiny! You’ll hardly even know it’s there. According to the experts, all the bad stuff you might have heard about casinos, none of it is true. None of it.
I’d been seeking a concise retort to the lawn sign bumpersticker sentiment “Casi-No!” ever since that night I wandered out into the gorgeous jilted starlight from our book club. And this author’s satire may have offered up the analogy I was looking for. If all this pseudo-civic umbrage really boils down to fretting over property values and the wrong kind of people maybe coming to live in town —and what’s worse expecting to see their kids educated along side ours —well, the obvious parallel is with the Know Nothings of the 1850′s. They, too, had a mind for resenting outsiders and cloaking jealous spiteful bigotry in supposed high minded civic concern. Back then the scary immigrants were Irish and German Catholics, and the resonant political message was that these weren’t quite Americans showing up in our towns and cities to build things, they were maybe just a little foreign to our ways —to the King’s English, you might say. As one critic put it, the Know Nothings bespoke “the spirit which is forever carping about the foreign-born citizen and trying to abridge his privileges.”
“Casi-Know-Nothings” —that’s a lot to put on a lawn sign I suppose, maybe too subtle. Come to think of it, I don’t even have a lawn.