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2/28/00 Nobody escapes Fargo

It's a given. Fargo is a deathtrap, which collests the people not strong enough to escape, traps them within it's unholy grasp, and restrains them against further movement in the future.

It's true -- it's a given. If you are born here, and don't put up a fight to escape, or if you come here under your own free will, then there's no way out. I tried; I went to college for a year in Missouri, but the foul tentacles of Fargo were still around me, and drew me back within a year. I've known plenty of other people in the same state of being. If you let any root be planted here, you're stuck. For several years, I theorized moving away, finding someplace else to be, some other home to live within, but it's just not going to happen.

I am exaggerating a bit, though, but the problem is that life is just so..._easy_ here. Cost of living is low, unemployement is down, income is pretty good, quality of living is high, crime is minimal, shopping is good, and the people are friendly. What's not to like? Fargo has such a positive environment for the core needs of life that there's little reason to find someplace else to live.

This is primarily because there isn't any change in Fargo. Stagnation abounds. Modern, progressive radio stations die quickly, but the standard "new" music stations still play music from my high-school days, 10 years ago. New music isn't so much new, as just being commonplace by the time it gets here. TV is one of the few areas we get a view of the outside world, but often the newer channels, the more experimental progressive ones, aren't picked up here until they've been on the air for some time. By that time, they've developed the same pitfalls of appealing to the lowest common denominator. Broadcast TV is the same as it always has been. Video rental places have extremely limited foreign, low-budget, or experimental selections. Independent music shops fold quickly, or have extremely limited selection. The mall & other stores are all chains, the insides of which are identical to every other store of the same name, the products are identical, and the prices are similar.

It's this suburbanization which makes it so attractive. There isn't anything unappealing about it. It's easy to go shopping, there's enough opportunity to get a good-paying job, there's plenty of nice places to live, and good schools. The people who have escaped Fargo are the ones who never stopped to look at what was in front of them. The people who had their eyes aimed skyward did go on to bigger and better things, but those of us who happenned to look down found that it really wasn't so bad here.

This, unfortunately, let to an environment of people who have settled. People who haven't got anything better in mind. The people who fear change, the people who dislike new things, unimaginative, uncreative, unprogressive people. This isn't bad, it's just counteractive to anything new happenning.

And, people like it. They move here in droves, attracted by the idea of having a place like this to fix their roots in. Our children go from one school to another, to college, and beyond all within the boundaries of this city (and it's neighbors), without intentions to go anywhere else. It's cheaper to stay than to go, and since everyone's support structure already has roots here, there's even less incentive to find another place to be. Maybe they find their way to Grand Forks, Wahpeton, Bismarck, even Minneapolis, but they still haven't escaped. They still find their way back to Fargo to visit friends and family, during the summer they come back for fishing and the resorts, in the winter for cold-weather sports, and maybe down the road they move back. Fargo's tendrils dig in deep, and although they give somewhat, they always snap back.

It's hard to complain about being comfortable, though. The comfort that lies in living in Fargo does have some sacrifices. You can't take chances if it risks damaging the consistency of the world around you. Fargo has reached a level where there isn't a sign of it getting worse, and nobody wants to risk it. The dome brought opposition originally, the ice area has it's opponents, industry doesn't move in -- only the existing standards of industry grow here.

Consistency is why we stay, and consistency is the downfall of living here. It's why art museums (and museums in general) have such a hard time, why it's difficult to find new musicians, why "home owned" stores are still chains, and why it's difficult to find a real radio station. The performing arts are one bright point in this spectrum; theatre has a strong backing in much of the community. Either theatre has figured out how not to challenge the viewers (hence the standard rotation of scripts), or there's some tolerance for alternative ideas when performed onstage, but art evokes emotions, and it makes you think. the Fargo Theatre struggles for backing to keep it up and running, while multiplex movie theatres are constantly expanding and improving. While art challenges the viewers, the viewers in Fargo challenge art to keep them interested and unoffended.

This stagnation also promotes sexism, bigotry, and out-of-date ideas about life and society. Fargoans still fear people of other races. Women still are not controlling forces in business. Outdated ideas of art still prevail. These are still the columns on which the consistent lifestyle we lead rests on. It scares people to risk shaking up the society which lives here, since nearly everyone that is here is happy with it. The bickering in the opinion pages of the newspapers touches on few 'real' topics. Every day has an article about whether the trains should blow their whistles in town, people comment on the decline of the worship of God (even though there are few non-christians in Fargo, and they 'keep to themselves'), or various other semantics which have little relevance on people themselves. Rather,they focus entirely on the fabric of ideals which holds Fargo together. There is a system here, where change is opposed, new things are ignored or altered to fit the norms, and lifestyles are kept within the status quo.

The reason this works is the extreme homogenic quality of Fargo. The majority of people here are white, they come from northern European origins, and they all only have 2 or 3 generations of relatives who have lived in America. Their religious and social backgrounds are extremely similar, and with this 'school of fish' effect is what has moved Fargo to this point, and will continue it's motion in the future. It depends on your point of view -- is it better to live someplace where live is simple and comfortable, or is it better to live someplace full of original ideas? Each have their failings and their benefits. both can only go so far, before it is forced to accept aspects of the other side, before it collapses and fails. Fargo would benefit from having a truly alternative radio station (like KUND in Grand Forks), and having a genuine art/history museum. Alternative performance spaces would cultivate new musicians, performers, and artists, but without the patronage, they fail as they always have. Without the public itself taking steps to partake in the new and the unusual, there will never be anything new. But, if you've developed deep roots in Fargo's bedrock, that may not be such a bad thing to you.

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