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You Be the Columnist: Culpeper Steak

The owner of two well-reviewed restaurants in the Washington area reacted angrily to my Sunday column on the tensions in Culpeper over illegal immigration and the changing character of a once-rural town. The column featured town council member Steve Jenkins lamenting the loss of the smalltown atmosphere he loved about Culpeper, as well as the voice of a newcomer from Fairfax who celebrated the new blend of people and interests that are changing the face of downtown Culpeper.

Michael Landrum, owner of Rays the Steaks in Arlington and Rays the Classics in Silver Spring, wrote this:

As much as I expect that some lessons from the Holocaust will never be learned, I do hope, even demand, that some lessons from human slavery must be. I read with shock, and horror, your piece today--not as a columnist, but as a reporter--regarding "growth concerns" in Culpepper, Virginia.

Perhaps, as seems to be suggested, even approved, in your news article, individuals of lesser status as "Americans" can be identified by legally enforced symbols sewn into their clothing, so that all can see just exactly with whom we are dealing. That would just make the views you reported upon, if not favorably then at least with journalistic objectivity granting legitimacy to horrible, horrible sentiments, clear and plain and acceptable.

Please do not visit any of my restaurants, and if you do so, please do not introduce yourself to me or use your position at the Post as a calling card. You, and the ideas you give voice to, are not welcome.

It's not often that I get banned from a local restaurant, so Landrum's missive caught my attention. I replied with this:

Thanks for your note. I found your conclusions mystifying. A columnist's main job is to present the beliefs and arguments of people whom readers might otherwise not meet, to challenge assumptions and to illuminate the private thinking and emotions behind positions and actions in the public arena. The Culpeper council member I wrote about Sunday should be able to recognize himself in the piece no matter what I may think of his views. I'm sorry you seem to want the paper to reflect only the reality you prefer, rather than the one that exists. Thanks for reading the column. I've been meaning to eat with friends and family at your Silver Spring establishment. I will instead honor your request and stay away. I'm sorry to hear that the owner of such a widely respected business is that cavalier about spurning customers about whom he knows nothing.

And now, Landrum has replied as follows (excerpts here, full text on the jump):

There are some views, beliefs, arguments and ideas so repugnant, despicable and abhorrent (if history has taught us anything) that they have no place in civil discourse--no matter how attractively they are presented--for their goals are the dehumanization of others.... [T]o present them publicly--especially under the guise of journalistic responsibility--without unequivocal condemnation gives tacit approval to, and makes one complicit in, their propogation....

Why not mention in your piece that all of these arguments were exactly those made by the early National Socialists and that the orgnization and tactics of the Minute Men mirror exactly those of the Brown Shirts? That would
indeed reflect the reality that truly exists as you so nobly state is your purpose....

You think you know anything about reality as people live it? Writing for the Post? You're going to condescend to me about living in a selective reality? Trying working just half of one of my days, with the people I am
proud to call my peers telling you their stories, and then see if you have anything to say.....

As to my restaurant being widely respected, well, that may be the case, but personally I am only respected by some few. Others are quite aware of my contempt.....

Your column did not illuminate anything, rather the opposite: it served to hide a certain, old, old vileness under a new wrongly granted legitimacy.

If you were the columnist, would you respond further? And if so, what would you say?




Here's the full text of Landrum's reply:

There are some views, beliefs, arguments and ideas so repugnant, despicable and abhorrent (if history has taught us anything) that they have no place in civil discourse--no matter how attractively they are presented--for their
goals are the dehumanization of others.

So repugnant and offensive, in fact, that to present them publicly--especially under the guise of journalistic responsibility--without unequivocal condemnation gives tacit approval to, and makes one complicit
in, their propogation--a fact I find even more despicable, frankly, since the original voicer of those ideas, at least putatively if not plausibly, has ignorance as an excuse.

Your piece, however, beyond the lack of the necessary outright condemnation of that dehumanization and the cowardice evinced thereby, presents those beliefs and arguments sympathetically and with nostalgia-tinged, pastoral idealizations. It is this fact that sickens me to the point of my necessary response.

What I find mystifying is that you would be the vehicle for such reprehensible bigotry to be validated and normalized. Even more mystifying that you fail to recognize in those arguments their true antecedants--that
someone who works with words for a living would fail to hear the thunder (as in "sonder", as in "sonderkommando") echoed in their evil banality: Degenerate intellectuals invading, and parasitic, infectious, aliens
threatening ,the idyllic splendor of the real America, the Old Dominion--and how those arguments gained power only because they were made to seem so normal, so patriotic, often times by a stupid, cowardly, complacent and
complicit mainstream press.

How exactly will we identify those who play by the rules and those who don't? By requiring registration with the authorities of all tenants and workers? By special enforcement units demanding the papers of all who don't
look right? With extra-legal, paramilitary groups taking that task unto themselves? By identifying symbols being sewn into clothing to be worn at all times? By requiring permits of passage for any to move about? And what
will we do with those who don't play by the rules? Put them in special detention centers? Work camps, maybe? "Auslander aus! Amerika fur Amerikaner!"? Try translating your subject's arguments into German and see
what words you will inevitably have to use.

Why not mention in your piece that all of these arguments were exactly those made by the early National Socialists and that the orgnization and tactics of the Minute Men mirror exactly those of the Brown Shirts? That would
indeed reflect the reality that truly exists as you so nobly state is your purpose.

Just which army did your council member's great-grandfather so admirably rush to join? And to fight for what? Why not a piece reflecting the bigotry of today in Culpepper, as it truly exists, in light of it's role in
slavery and the War Against Northern Aggression and how that fight continued against civil rights, integration, property rights, employment rights and voting rights? Maybe you would have to point out that this fight against
"the outsiders" is just a continuation of that fear-mongering bigotry? Or does that reality escape you too?

Does the reality also escape you that giving voice to this bigotry, thereby granting it legitimacy, makes you a loathesome tool (I do not mean this in the ad hominem attack way, but rather in the Sears Craftsman way) in the
service of its spread?

Not too long ago, many members of the Jewish community undertook the struggle for civil rights not only because of their own far too recent experiences in America and the dangers still lurking therein, but because of
the recognition of the underlying similarities between the injustices here at home and the root causes of the horrors of Europe, and the human and moral imperative to combat that ugliness and horror, no matter what guise it
take, lest it inevitably rise again in full violence.

More than a few journalists of integrity, intelligence and courage did so as well. Other journalists did not.

As to your not being welcome in my restaurants, how welcome do these unwanted intruders feel as they perform the necessary, menial tasks that are beneath the true Culpepperites and real Americans but are so necessary to
their overbloated comfort? How much less welcome will your piece assist in making them as they go about making our comfortable way of life possible?

In how many neighborhoods were Jews, Blacks and certainly Hispanics not welcome where your readers, and maybe even you, now live? Or in how many restaurants where you and you family are now accustomed to dine? What's one less to you? In any case, we do not require proof of identity or of nationality, or permits of passage before seating guests, so if you want to duplicate the incredible thrill of being someplace illegally or unwelcomed,
of having to hide who you are and fear being caught, of being denied the basic dignities afforded to those around you, than feel free to stretch your journalistic wings and come down to either Ray's so that you can earn the
right to write about an experience that really does exist today, not in Germany, Italy, Poland and France, but right here in Virginia.

You think you know anything about reality as people live it? Writing for the Post? You're going to condescend to me about living in a selective reality? Trying working just half of one of my days, with the people I am
proud to call my peers telling you their stories, and then see if you have anything to say.

As to my restaurant being widely respected, well, that may be the case, but personally I am only respected by some few. Others are quite aware of my contempt.

As to my behavior being cavalier, if by that you mean that I have a code of values by which I live and for which I believe I must fight when necessary, why yes, then I am quite cavalier. If you mean that I espouse the values of
Mr. Jefferson's slave-built peculiar institution, well I am pretty sure that you did not intend what must be to you a compliment, as though I were the first from my town to join the Confederate Army, but in any case you would
be wrong.

As to spurning customers, I do not have customers, I have guests. It is not a business, it is my house, and I do not welcome into my home those who serve, wittingly or not, to normalize, glorify or advance bigotry. Of this
I am proud.

Your column did not illuminate anything, rather the opposite: it served to hide a certain, old, old vileness under a new wrongly granted legitimacy.


By Marc Fisher |  October 13, 2006; 7:58 AM ET
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Comments

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Marc: Wow! I am speechless. Mr. Landrum is evidently opposed to reporting on the real world. He took your analysis of what is going on in Culpeper (and your quotes from one resident in particular)as evident proof that you are anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, etc.

I suppose the fact that so many Latinos can be found in restaurant kitches must have affected Mr. Landrum's perspective. (And I wonder how many of those folks are, uh, working on legit greencards.)

I think you should throw this one to Tom Sietsma and see what he thinks.

Posted by: Jack | October 13, 2006 8:45 AM

Mr. Landrum suffers from a serious case of shoot the messenger. I was looking forward to visiting the new Silver Spring resturant as well, but guess I will stick with Mi Rancho.

Posted by: Raze the steaks | October 13, 2006 8:49 AM

Ugh, what an arrogant jerk. I did want to go to one of his restaurants, but never mind, no longer interested. Half of the time his e-mails to you didn't make sense or were horribly misspelled (Culpepper?) and the other half they were plain ridiculous. Someone needs a reality check, and it's not Marc.

Posted by: DC | October 13, 2006 8:51 AM

Since his restaurants depend on a steady supply of cheap labor his position just illustrates J. P. Morgan's observation that "people always have two reasons for doing something; a good reason and the real reason." If people are here illegally, round 'em up and ship 'em out to wherever they came. I wonder what fringe benefits he offers his kitchen workers and what he pays them. He could be a hypocrite. I think you should teach him the folly of "picking a fight with someone who buys printers ink in tank cars."

Posted by: Stick | October 13, 2006 8:52 AM

I forgot to mention that, same as others, I've been meaning to visit the Arlington location but not now. And I live just down the hill so I could have been a regular. He can watch me visit Guajillo.

Posted by: Stick | October 13, 2006 8:55 AM

Gee, Marc with friends like above, do you need enemies? "Round em' up and ship em' out" in Landum's view is just one step from "Round em' up and ship em' to a camp."
However, there is a bit of shoot the messenger in his remarks, on the other hand your "reporting" seemed sympathic (sympathy not warented) to one more "good ol' boy" waking up to the realities of life in modern America and instead of confronting those more rich and powerful than he (them outsiders from Fairfax) who are the main source of his vexation, he in true bulling fashion (like a noted Virginia Senator) tries to take it out one people trying to make a life for themselves.

Posted by: A. Hardwick | October 13, 2006 9:17 AM

Two questions: How much time lapsed between Landrum's e-mails and your posting them on the blog and was he aware/did he consent to their posting?

While I'm not endorsing his often incendiary remarks, I'm a little concerned about the possibility that sending off a passionate (and perhaps ill-advised) e-mail to a columnist could result in the public posting of that screed with attribution. It seems like it's fair game to publicize the remarks of an established public figure, but is Landrum really a public figure?

I guess this just seems to me like a guy who cares about his employees and who's panicked about some of the anti-immigrant sentiments he's seeing elsewhere, e.g., the Minuteman Project. His rhetoric is overblown, yes, but it still has the feel that if he and Marc sat down and talked about the underlying issues, they'd probably be pretty much in agreement (tolerance good, fascism bad).

The point is, that had Landrum voiced these views in an Op-Ed piece or even a letter to the editor I'd feel very differently about them than I do.

Posted by: TC | October 13, 2006 9:21 AM

You newspaper-folks just can't win. Tell people what they're supposed to think, and your a biased left-leaning practicer of yellow journalism. Report the views of an elected member of the community leaving the reader to come to their own conclusions, and you are apparently actively advocating those views.

I, for one am intelligent enough to form my own conclusions. And though I think that Mr. Landrum and I actually share similar views with respect to immigration, his opinions on the role of the media are quite frankly frightening. How does he expect people to become aware of the views that their elected officials hold if they are apparently too repugnant to be given space in the newspaper? It's ironic that Mr. Landrum advocates the newspaper telling people what to think when he seems to put such value on a free society. His laughably arrogant and condecending attitude towards whom he chooses to allow to patronize his establishments has ensured that I will never subject myself to being a "guest" in his house.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2006 9:25 AM

Mr. Landrum obviously needs to print out his views and thoughts, post them on the entrance to his business (as I assume he doesn't give away food to his "guests"), and demand people sign a statement that they agree with him completely before being allowed to enter.

A "thought code," as it were.

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 13, 2006 9:38 AM

Um, wow.

Actually, before I get going: "I am only respected by some few. Others are quite aware of my contempt." -- Er, I don't think that means what he intended it to mean.

To answer your question, though, no, if I were a columnist, I would not continue what I am generously going to call the discussion. You're never going to bring him around to your way of thinking, because he's not really listening. My suggestion: stick it in the Godwin's Law file and find another place to have dinner.

Posted by: walk left, stand right | October 13, 2006 9:40 AM

Landrum does bring up an interesting point -- that by writing a column featuring a person with these parochial views -- and I don't think they are hateful so much as a reflection of ignorance and lack of experience combined with a sort of misplaced nostalgia -- the columnist gives credence to those views. The subject's viewpoints represent what is not an uncommon feeling among people who live in small towns or whose families have long roots in the community.

I think that this sort of "column projection" (?) does happen -- but often the opposite happens, too -- columns like these can make people realize how narrow-minded these views are -- and maybe their own, as well.

I don't know if this will keep me from wanting to go to Ray's the Classics, which my husband and I have wanted to try. But I hope it will inspire people to think about their views on immigration, both pro and con.

Posted by: cbs | October 13, 2006 9:44 AM

Marc, I read your column and have to say, the perspective of the Culpeper native is illuminated but the point of view of those he speaks out against ("illegals" as he suspects) are not. Despite Jenkins teeing off on certain groups, those groups' perspective isn't given the same attention in the column. That is my only criticism, and if you boil down Mr. Landrum's irate response, I think that's what he's saying too... just not as nicely.

Posted by: neutral | October 13, 2006 9:55 AM

What an absolute nutjob. I've raved about Ray's the Steaks often; I WAS THERE LAST NIGHT. It's a shame we so often attribute intelligence to those we like when in reality there are so many people who do good things that do not require being smart at all.

Michael Landrum apparently doesn't realize that people who slaughter animals simply to consume their flesh are worse than Nazis, because at least the Nazis didn't EAT their victims. The Nazis at least didn't enslave their victims and force them to selectively breed over the generations to make them more satisfying to murder. Not even the Confederacy did that. Animals are very intelligent and have feelings and feel pain and therefore have the same rights as people if not more because they are better than us. Anyone would be perfectly justified in vandalizing Mr. Landrum's property and/or assaulting his henchmen, because they are perpetuating the continued Holocaust of our animal brethren in an immoral fashion that no self-respecting American can support. Serving animal flesh for human consumption is indisputably repugnant, despicable, and abhorrent and should be stopped by any means necessary, just like the campaign for Civil Rights.

Doesn't Mr. Landrum (who I still think provides great food with great service at a great price) realize that there are a lot of good people out in the world who hold views contrary to his own and that those views have varying degrees of legitimacy? He has a right to ban Posties from his business, he has a right to be a provincial effete living in an NPR-fueled bubble far removed from reality, and he has a right to hold and express arrogant, insulting opinions that a majority of Americans reject, but he has no basis to proclaim a moral superiority over the rest of us.

Posted by: athea | October 13, 2006 10:03 AM

I wouldn't write back. Godwin's Law is definitely applicable here.

Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | October 13, 2006 10:11 AM

His response was definitely over-emotional, but I see his point. Your article had a slant in favor of Jenkins -- you painted Jenkin's Culpeper as an idealistic rural paradise, with no real dissenting opinion voiced. This is especially noticeable in your last paragraph: "Somehow, his town turned from a place that respected rules to one where people don't even know what the rules are. This eats at Jenkins. The solution, he says, is "easy, simple." Just set the rules and let the immigrants become Americans, and then we can all live by the same rules.
That's how it always was in Culpeper; that's how it still is at Baby Jim's..." You are painting a picture of the old Culpeper days, before the Others moved in.

Posted by: agreewithlandrum | October 13, 2006 10:21 AM

No need to engage this nutcase any longer. He obviously doesn't understand the role of the news media in the public debate, and you're not going to convince him.

But thanks for letting me know, because I'm definitely taking Ray's off my list of places to visit. I imagine I'd be welcome at Morton's or Ruth's Chris without having to pass some sort of idological test before being served.

Posted by: just ... wow. | October 13, 2006 10:34 AM

I would keep writing about this but from a different perspective. We are trying to have a civil debate about what is the correct policy regarding immigration. This is going to be a painful process. This person you have been exchanging e-mails with is probably mentally ill. At the very least he needs to try the decalf. But let's take his point seriously and and see if it really measures up to logic. The one really salient point which I have never heard discussed in this debate is the following: Are we helping people by letting them come here or would the greater good be served by making them solve the problems in their own countries which make them want to come here? If we let the best and the brightest from every C. American country come here who is left to reform and care for the remainder? Who will stand up to the tyrants there? Are we really helping people or just delaying the solutions to horrible problems? Wouldn't the best world be one where those governments are not corrupt and we want to move there instead of the other way around?

Posted by: Falls Church | October 13, 2006 10:38 AM

Athea,
What does eating animals have to do with this?? Obvioulsy you have never been around or raised steer or sheep for meat. They can be vicious and mean and have no regard for a himan or dog.
Marc,
My girlfriend is recent immigrant who immigrated from Panama legally and became a US citizen. I am 3rd generation American on my mom's side. You have to follow the rules. If you didnt and arrived in this country you do not get any special benefits or breaks. You go to the back of the line and start the immigration policy from scratch. No you dont have to go back to your country. Breaking the law however noble the reason shouldnt result in the perp getting any special bennies. Mr Landrum's problem is he has enjoyed the financial rewards for many years from hiring illegal immigrants to work in his establishments. BTW Mr Landrum very nice 5000 sq ft plus house and like the Mercedes S class. Might have only been an E class if you only hired legal workers. Hey Mr. Landrum I will donate $500 to your favorite charity if ICE goes to your restaurants and doesnt find any illegal immigrants! I can have them there tonight a 430pm. Nad BTW I have washed dishes and bussed tables in restaurants, punk!

Posted by: VAherder | October 13, 2006 10:42 AM

Marc, don't sweat it. There are plenty of nuts in the world. If he couldn't noodle it thru with 2 cracks at it, don't waste any more time on him. Hopefully someone in his family will read this and explain it to him, although his own family probably knows better than I wether or not this is even do-able.

Posted by: John Lease | October 13, 2006 10:45 AM

You should challenge him to a fight, with the loser being forced to eat a big bowl of dippin dots (winner's choice of flavor)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2006 10:49 AM

VAherder: I think Athea was being satirical--pointing out that even Landrum isn't immune to half-baked righteous anger.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2006 10:53 AM

I find Landrum to be nothing more than a hypocrite. His ramblings do no more than expose himself to be the bigot in the conversation. He doesn't appreciate you, or anyone for that matter, with an opinion different than his own. He refuses you entry to his establishment as his guest. Landrum wants the world to adhere to his myopic views. If you don't then he casts you aside as someone not worthy of his attention or time. Mr. Landrum is nothing more than a sad pathetic hypocritical person not worthy of continued discussion with you Marc.

I won't be a guest of Mr. Landrum at any of his restaurants.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2006 11:04 AM

I thought the article did have an "Ahh, shucks, good old fashion American racism" sort of vibe to it so I can see why the guy was so po'ed. What is interesting to me is bringing the restaurant into it. Different opinions = restaurant shunning? Odd. That being said, I wouldn't engage him any further.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2006 11:07 AM

The good Mr. Landrum is, to put it mildly, a nut case. I agree that "keeping the 'others' out" isn't a pleasant idea, but to then bring in the Nazis, Brown Shirts (and probably, with his views, anybody who might vote GOP), is absolutely ridiculous. Keep up the good work, Mr. Fisher - I disagree with you on many issues, but I'm not going to demand you only print stories which follow my line of thought.

Posted by: steve | October 13, 2006 11:18 AM

Wow, Marc, first the Texas Roadhouse in Chantilly, now this guy. What's with all these arrogant, self-absorbed whack jobs around here running restaurants? Is it something about the business that attracts such characters, or are these guys anomalies? At least I'm learning about places I definitely don't ever want to patronize, which I suppose is useful information in its own way.

Also, I think your posting of his two messages here is entirely appropriate. I'm not sure why someone would think that a response to a newspaper columnist would ever be strictly private, unless it was agreed to in advance. I also think that posting his invectives, and allowing your readers to weigh in, is all the response you need for this knucklehead, letting him see what others think of his overreactions.

Posted by: JB | October 13, 2006 11:25 AM

There is a HUGE influx of immigrants in MoCo (specifically Wheaton right now) so if you interviewed someone who grew up here you might get the same article.
You only wrote about what someone felt. Maybe some people read more into it than that but my impression is that you wrote from his point of view. That being said - let the emails stop now as there is nothing to be gained from continuing.

Posted by: KB Silver Spring | October 13, 2006 11:26 AM

"Wow, Marc, first the Texas Roadhouse in Chantilly, now this guy. What's with all these arrogant, self-absorbed whack jobs around here running restaurants? Is it something about the business that attracts such characters, or are these guys anomalies? At least I'm learning about places I definitely don't ever want to patronize, which I suppose is useful information in its own way."

Yep, two out of thousands is surely a trend - brilliant!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2006 11:32 AM

Wow Marc, this is scary, and makes me wonder do you have some kind of security?

Do you have your house monitored? Or maybe a body guard?

You never know when you're gonna offend someone and they wanna hurt you.

We love you here in DC and want you to be careful...cause this guy is foaming at the mouth.

Thanks

Posted by: Frankey | October 13, 2006 12:00 PM

To liken anything in VA to the Holocaust is a blasphemy to the memory of all its victims. Unforunately, Mr. Landrum isn't one to let facts get in the way of a good rant. One of the stereotypes of Jewish people is intellectualism: Mr. Landrum has done much, singlehandedly, to smash that tradition.

If one is angry with the views of a small-town politician a hundred miles away, why resort to ad hominem attacks on a local columnist?
If one is in the "guest" business (yeah, right), why engage in a contretemps with someone who, as they say, buys ink by the barrel?

We may assume then that Mr. Landrum is operating his business in violation of the U.S. criminal code (the law of this land, by the way, not Weimar)? I don't care to contribute to his criminal enterprise, he will no longer have my business.

Posted by: Sir Oswald | October 13, 2006 12:03 PM

Mr. Landrum clearly doesn't understand the role of journalism, and he should actually applaud such a column. The role of a piece like this is to accurately depict life and attitudes in a small town, and especially the thoughts of a public figure such as town councilmember Jenkins. If anything, this story will open up the eyes of many people to the arguably racist beliefs of a person that is in a position to impact daily life in Culpeper (which I imagine was one of the goals of the story).

As for the accusation that you portrayed such attitudes in a positive light, I think Mr. Landrum is confusing subjectivity with writing style. There may been a couple instances where you could have more clearly attributed nostalgic thoughts about the way Culpeper used to be to Jenkins and others, rather than stand-alone sentences that could be interpreted as the author's opinion. But overall it was pretty clear that you were portraying the feelings of some of those in Culpeper, not of yourself.

The bottom line is, Mr. Landrum needs to understand that stories like these are what expose the exact racist attitudes he is against. He should be thrilled that people can now judge Jenkins for who and what he really is.

All that said, I hear Ray's steaks are incredible, and the owner's inability to comprehend the purpose of journalism will not keep me away from a tasty piece of meat.

Posted by: Dan | October 13, 2006 12:19 PM

I thought your column did an excellent job of capturing the profound sense of loss and uncertainty that people sometimes feel when the world around them starts changing. If taken to the extreme, Mr. Jenkins's ideas could lead to the kind of horrors Mr. Landrum refers to, but there was nothing in your column to suggest that Mr. Jenkins is likely to become such an extremist.

I might try one more exchange with Mr. Landrum, perhaps encouraging him to think about whether he's ever experienced the sense of loss that Mr. Jenkins is feeling and how that sense made him feel about the people who brought it about. Or you might ask him if he has any ideas about how he might help Mr. Jenkins understand that change is not so bad, thus decreasing the likelihood of the kind of extremism he attributes to Mr. Jenkins.

Posted by: THS | October 13, 2006 12:27 PM

Wow, someone prominent has dared to question Marc. Stop the presses! Is Landrum right? I don't know. And I don't care. I certainly have issues with the Post, with Fisher, and with the media in general.

Landrum's restaurant in Arlington is simply marvelous. This is no way will affect my patronage.

Posted by: Discman | October 13, 2006 12:28 PM

No JW Athea comments are typical of the Animal Right's folks out there especially the PETA terrorists. Only reason for ths heep I erd to exist is they are there for lessons offered by my herding instructor. Any sheep that dont that challenge and hurt humans or dogs go to the slaughter house and become dog food.

So what do say Mr Landrum. If anyone has reservations at either of Mr. Landrum's establishments this week I would cancel because they will be understaffed because of the ICE raids.

Posted by: VAherder | October 13, 2006 12:41 PM

Seems to me that Landrum's not only missed Marc's point, but Jenkins's as well. I find forced assimilation a deeply distasteful proposition, but not one which should inspire hyperbolic parallels to the Nazis and segregationists, who didn't want minority populations mixing with the rest of society.

If Landrum sincerely isn't trying to use his business as a means of forcing you to conform to his vision of journalism, Marc, I don't think he can object if you treat him like any other letter writer who fails to respond to your civility in kind. And I doubt he'll care if this Jewish carnivore takes her dollars somewhere where the owner can be counted on to put more reasoned analysis into the issue at hand before spouting off.

Posted by: fs | October 13, 2006 12:47 PM

I think there were considerable differences between the status of Jews in pre-war Germany and that of illegal aliens in this country today. The Jews were German residents, often life-long and generally held German citizenship. They also spoke German and were fully engaged in the German economy.

Posted by: Kieth Miller | October 13, 2006 1:03 PM

Sir Oswald wrote: One of the stereotypes of Jewish people is intellectualism: Mr. Landrum has done much, singlehandedly, to smash that tradition.

Oswald: Not everyone who makes a Holocaust analogy is Jewish.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | October 13, 2006 1:07 PM

VAherder - you are being dense and missing the point- Atheas post was satirical. The point was to make an analogy of how ridiculous and over the top some of that animal rights "holier-than-thou" rhetoric is to how Mr. Landrum's own rant sounds. And to give him a taste of his own medicine - before declaring himself a morally superior being he should realize that there are other belief systems (animal rights, Hinduism, etc.) by which he could be judged just as harshly. "He who casts the first stone better be a damned fast runner."

Also, if you read closely, Athea just ate at Ray's last night, and I can assure you if they were an animal rights activist that is not a place they would go into and say how great it is.

Posted by: Rosslyn | October 13, 2006 1:14 PM

I don't necessarily buy Landrum's arguments in their entirety, but I do agree that the main stream media should take more responsibility in evaluating positions rather than just passing them on verbatim.

This kind of excessive objectivity has lead to the rampant practice of presenting both sides of any argument, regardless of merit, as being equivalent
("false equivalency").

An example that comes to mind is the "intelligent design" debate, where you had a handful of quacks on one side versus the entire scientific community on the other, and the media presented this as "gosh, good arguments on both sides, heck, we don't know who's right, back after this commercial break with more of 'God vs. Science'".

As far Landrum's over-enthusiasm -- good for him!

I'm sure it would be much easier to just avoid offending any potential customers and side-step controversy at all cost; instead, he passionately attacks what he sees as racism.

Posted by: Burke | October 13, 2006 1:15 PM

Mr. Landrum was blunt and aggressive in his response, but he wasn't entirely off base.

The article talks about community roots and refers to a nostalgia for a simpler earlier time. But the nostalgia for the past is never contextualized. Culpeper may indeed have been a simpler place 40 or 50 years ago, but it was also likely a more segregated place. Your race and your gender determined what you could do and often where you could live.

That nostalgia is now being brought up in an effort to blame immigrants for changes in Culpeper. Remember that neither readers nor Mr. Jenkins seem to know the proportion of immigrants that are legal or illegal. What we do know is that Mr. Jenkins is upset and wants something done about the immigrant problem. Within this context, his nostalgia isn't innocent. Nostalgia is arguably being used to advance a program of prejudice. It is a form of code - referring to a simpler, whiter time. I can see how Marc didn't intend to endorse such a view, but I also think that letting Mr. Jenkins and others get away with such claims without pointing them out could seem like tacit approval.

But what makes all of this worse is that the column does not allow any immigrants or immigrant rights groups respond.

Where were the voices of the immigrants? Are they all illegal? Does Mr. Jenkins have any proof? They live in Culpeper as well - and my guess is most work hard and pay taxes. But they weren't given any column space of their own, even when one of the main interviewees singled them out for blame.

The real problem may be immigration from Northern VA - but Mr. Jenkins can't whip people up into a frenzy over northern immigrants b/c they bring much needed money to Culpeper and are also likely to be well educated. In short, its hard to demonize the northerners as the other. Once again in context, covering Mr. Jenkins and letting him pick on the "Southern Immigrants" without granting those same immigrants some right of response is irresponsible.

Posted by: JD | October 13, 2006 1:25 PM

JD said what I meant, but much more eloquently. Thanks, JD!

Posted by: agreewithlandrum | October 13, 2006 1:31 PM

Landrum is a nutjob. I don't need to give my money to another soup nazi. They can stay on TV.

If he acts that way, over a column, I can only imagine how much he cares about what his customers want.

I live in Sterling, grew up in Herndon.

What the pro-immigrant community doesn't understand, is what it's like to live next to 15 people from a 3rd world country with only an economic desire to be here in the first place, and only assimilate in that regard, if needed.

Neighborhood and community culture, be damned.

No one wants their neighborhood and community culture forcibly changed. No one.
Example? Suburban culture says you don't:

**Jam 15 people in a house
**Let your roomates urinate out back
**Buy so many cars you can't park in front of your own house anymore
**Never mow your lawn
**Let half of the men in your house sit out front and drink all day
**Throw beer cans at your neighbors dog
**Let your children run around antagonizing the dogs to get them barking in the first place
**Host cockfights in your shed
**Host recent arrivals in your shed
**Not put your kids in school
**Have medical bills sent to your neighbors
**Put trash in front of your neighbors because your too cheap to buy trash service
**Have heavy duty trucks honking horns at 5am to call all the workers out of the house
**Watch numerous single men parade in and out of houses as they arrive from the states

None of this has even happened to me! Just my neighbors, in the two years I've been here.

I can guarantee you, if Mr. Landrum had to pay a 30% premium for higher wages and benefits for legal labor, like some of us who own small businesses, his views would be slightly different.


Posted by: In The Thick Of It | October 13, 2006 2:03 PM

Dear Mr Landrum,
Your business has been built overwhelmingly on the poorly-paid backs of immigrant laborers and fed by the greed that typifies Washington. Your restaurants stand among the gentrification of what used to be very nice, low-key neighborhoods in which to savor the not-so-pretentious side of D.C. and environs. I hope that your guilt and paranoia are now assuaged. I will continue to avoid your places of business here, as I have since the first of them opened.

A life-long, 41-year resident of the Peoples' Republics of Arlington and Alexandria

Posted by: bigolpoofter | October 13, 2006 2:34 PM

Mr. Landrum's writing style (not the content or his beliefs) makes it clear that he has a personality disorder or other form of mental illness. Let it go at that.

Posted by: FMJohnson | October 13, 2006 2:50 PM

JD, well done in redefining Mr. Landrum's remarks with a more balanced tone. Landrum has shown himself many times to be a colorful, outspoken businessman in the Washington area. Heretofore he has provided fantastic meals at his restaurants, and now he is offering all of us food for thought.

For other commenters, please refrain from baseless accusations about how Landrum runs his restaurants. He will conduct his businesses as he will, presumably within the law, and it is not up to the peanut gallery to judge his practices. I recall that we as a nation threw out "guilty until proven innocent" as a tenet some time ago.

Posted by: DupontDC | October 13, 2006 2:52 PM

Did Mr. Landrum state he was Jewish? And so now he's single handedly dis-proving the old saw of Jews being intelligent?

Wow, if this were a place it would be Thunderdome.

This Jew can't wait to try Rays. I don't care what he thinks or says, if he's as passionate and risktaking in his buisness as he has been with this exchange, it would explain why his restaurants are considered so good.

Posted by: Amazed in DC | October 13, 2006 3:08 PM

Yes. You should write one more time and say: "I'm sorry. You are right. I should have made it clear to my readers that I find the views I quoted personally untenable.

Posted by: Frank | October 13, 2006 3:09 PM

Frank, do we readers really need Mr. Fisher's opinon stated all over the piece in order to form or validate our own opinions?

Posted by: Kieth Miller | October 13, 2006 3:26 PM

Frank - seriously? Given that MF was -- as even ML recognized -- writing as a reporter and not an opinion columnist, his opinion of the views expressed by subjects of his article ought to be absolutely irrelevant. He was reporting the news, and the restaurant owner yelled at him (twice!) for it. Dude.

Posted by: walk left, stand right | October 13, 2006 3:26 PM

You win some and you lose some in every job you do. I'm sorry that you didn't seem to get the points of my article or the issues I was hoping to illuminate. We actually share much of same views and that will probably be clearer in a day of cooler heads. My guess is that I struck a nerve about something you and I both care deeply about. In many ways then, I accomplished what I set out to do.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2006 3:26 PM

Mr. Landrum needs to get a grip. While Jenkin's nativism is deplorable, nothing in the article indicated that he planned some sort of "final solution" to the immigrant "problem" of Culpeper. Yet, Landrum criticizes you for not condemning Jenkins as if you were condoning the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

There are a lot of silly reactionary people who lament the loss of the "good old days" as they once knew them and blame some minority or other for that loss. That doesn't require columnists to act as if they're criminals. Landrum has extrapolated a few lines of text into the second coming of the Third Reich. He needs to take a deep breath.

Don't respond to him. He's made a fool of himself, and he'll only become more defensive the more you argue with him.

Posted by: John in Annandale | October 13, 2006 3:36 PM

Marc, I believe that both you and Landrum have points worthy of further discussion, and that you should meet, break bread and explore this topic. He clearly sees you as failing to condemn the indefensible and, concomitantly, you view his outrage as misplaced, suggesting that your column, in and of itself, offered sufficient coverage of the council member's views so as to ensure that your readers could draw their own conclusions.

Landrum is a remarkable fellow, and his charitable works in this community are legendary. Please take the opportunity to continue this dialogue.

Posted by: bioesq | October 13, 2006 3:45 PM

DupontDC, while I agree that JD's criticism is well taken, I don't see it as a more reasonable restatement of Landrum's. Landrum isn't looking for a couple of well-chosen quotes from the immigrants themselves that would effectively blow Jenkins's position to pieces; what he wants is a fire-and-brimstone "unequivocal condemnation" from Marc himself, using historical references that make limited sense in the context of the issue.

Certainly, he's welcome to conduct his business as he sees fit. But I'm sure he's aware that leveling sharp and (to my mind) undeserved criticism is going to draw sharp criticism of its own from certain quarters, and accepts that risk. If he isn't, maybe he needs to be a little less quick on the "Send" button.

Posted by: fs | October 13, 2006 4:12 PM

I am assuming that Mr. Landrum's business was not built on the backs of illegal immigrants being paid lower wages and fewer benefits than those that legal workers would receive, else Mr. Landrum himself would be guilty of the criminal economic exploitation of others for his personal gain. As a business owner, and a restaurateur at that, he is certainly aware both of the legal and the moral depravity of hiring cheaply paid illegal immigrants over American citizens and legal immigrants. Cutting corners to pad profits is a filthy business practice that is in large part responsible for the flood of illegals that we're experiencing today. Surely Mr. Landrum wouldn't be condemning the perceived bigotry of others ad nauseam while engaging in the 21st-century equivalent of utilizing slave labor? Naaah, no one would ever be so obscenely hypocritical, I'm sure.

One statement of Mr. Landrum's did indeed make me realize that some qualities of the racist '60s are still alive today: "As to spurning customers, I do not have customers, I have guests. It is not a business, it is my house, and I do not welcome into my home those who serve, wittingly or not, to normalize, glorify or advance bigotry. Of this I am proud." If you were to substitute the word "integration" for "bigotry," you could easily attribute this same sentiment to another restaurant owner who thought he had the right to decide which customers he could accept and which ones he could bar. That other southern chap achieved fame for two things: his rabidly racist views and his practice of using an axe handle to chase away customers whose views he disagreed with. Even the monograms are similar; you need only transpose the initials. Michael Landrum, meet Lester Maddox.

Posted by: KR20852 | October 13, 2006 8:33 PM

Marc,

I think the two of you ought to drop it. You've each stated your opinions. Both opinions are legitimate, and neither of you is going to convert the other. Move on with your lives.

Posted by: KK | October 14, 2006 7:16 AM

One of the more telling aspects of the immigration issue and how it is literally non-partisan and non-racist is the dozens of remarks that several of us have heard from Depression- and World War II-era people in recent months: They note, proudly, how they, their parents and their grandparents came into this country LEGALLY, DOCUMENTED and ABOVE-BOARD (LEGAL), worked hard, saved money, raised families, established businesses, participated in the community, LEARNED ENGLISH, behaved themselves, did what they were supposed to do, did not whine or complain like children, and contributed productively to society. They in turn trash these folks today who do everything the exact opposite--come here illegally, can't communicate, don't learn the language, commit crimes, act like idiots, do everything illegally, and generally do NOT contribute to society. Again, remember, a generation of immigrants are NOT praising today's illegal immigrants. I even heard one child of immigrant parents say that they wished today's illegals would just pack up and go home and stay there. Food for thought, and from the rightfully-labeled greatest generation.

Posted by: Potomac | October 16, 2006 10:35 AM

Potomac,

That generation of legal immigrants had a much easier time coming to this country than this generation's illegals. They faced the same bigotry and prejudice as today's illegals, but the laws were much more permissive than today's laws.

Today's illegals are following the footsteps of the earlier generation -- learning English, sending their kids to school, establishing businesses, assimilating. Our society will be richer for their being here.

Posted by: KK | October 16, 2006 11:18 AM

Marc, I haven't read all the above comments, so if someone else came up with the idea forgive me: I suggest you offer to go to one of Mr. Landrum's restaurants and do a piece on life working as a busboy there.

I share Landrum's passion for the plight of those who have no choice but to come to the US illegally to feed their families. Does anyone think if they could find a decent job close to their families back home in Mexico or Central America they wouldn't take it? Many people who oppose immigration - illegal or legal - tend to dehumanize the people we are talking about.

That said, Mr. Landrum tends to dehumanize the council member you are profiling. People who hold views we may think of as racist or simply ignorant usually have a reason for the views they hold. There is value in understanding where they are coming from. I think you did a public service in profiling the council member from Culpeper. We need to understand where everyone is coming from.

Life is not a simplistic Crossfire show - where you are a commie and I'm a facist. There is nuance and subtlety - and someone who opposes immigration may hate the 'other' - granted - or may simply long for a way of life that has passed them by. They will have to adjust because life in America and in our communities is always changing. We will never have villages that are exactly as they were 500 years ago like you find in Europe. We are a peripatetic people - and our newcomers are too, of course.

Posted by: JH | October 16, 2006 12:25 PM

Wow Marc.
Remind me never to send you a personal note.
I assume of course that you got Michael Landrum's permission to reveal personal communications to the world.

Why are you asking the commenters to tell you what to do? You've obviously made up your mind -- instead of trying to communicate with someone you don't agree with you feel the need to besmirch him with a snicker to your friends.

Posted by: JPW | October 16, 2006 1:18 PM

JPW:
With the voracity and tone he used, I would besmirch him with a snicker to the world. What a common blow hole. He should keep his key lime pie hole shut and stay in the kitchen. Landrum reaks more and more each day of vile self-importance.

Posted by: Rhino | October 16, 2006 2:14 PM

I come to this tempest in a teapot a little late, but I have two observations concerning the overwrought Mr. Landrum. He has fairly let us all know that he is so morally perfect that he can advocate prior censorship in the knowledge that he (alone?) knows best for the rest of us - PC to a fault. He has also revalidated the notion that a little learning is a dangerous thing. The German word "sonder" has nothing to do with thunder. It meas "special", so the notorious sonderkommandos he so ahistorically invokes were "special commands" devoted to killing Jews and other "subhumans" in Nazi-occupied territory. (Marc, you should have picked this up from your days in Germany.) Landrum should get his frothing straight before spouting.

Posted by: JGD | October 16, 2006 2:17 PM

Potomac: Your gauzy memories of past waves of immigration in no way comport with reality. Irish, Italian, Jews -- they crammed into huge slums, slept many to a room, were subject to all the same pathologies that today's immigrants are subject to -- alcohol, violence, illegitimacy, crime and --often -- weren't so keen on learning the language. If Landrum overstates his case, he is nonetheless correct in implying that every argument made against Hispanics is a tired, racist rehash of what they said about my Irish ancestors. I have the good fortune to live in a neighborhood that is heavily populated my Latino immigrants -- legal or illegal, I have no idea. They bring a vibrant diversity to the city and, while there are drunks and alley-urinators, there are families and hard working people who believe they can earn a better life through their hard work, and are as likely to be seen going to church as looking for day labor.

Posted by: Chasmo | October 16, 2006 2:44 PM

Oh I see. So when a racist TOWN COUNCIL member Steve Jenkins voices his opinion, he is simply waxing nostalgic for the 'good old days' before THEY came to town but when Michael Landrum voices his alternate opinion, he is a "nutjob"

Michael, I am SO looking forward to many many more visits to your wonderful restaurants.

Posted by: Patricia in DC | October 16, 2006 2:45 PM

I shall certainly visit Ray's the Steaks and Ray's the Classics. Mr. Landrum apparently apparently sees them as his homes and the people who eat there as his guests. I, for one, have never presented a bill to my guests when they eat at my home, and I'm looking forward to accepting Mr. Landrum's hospitality (although his business model seems suspect . . . )

Posted by: Mel | October 16, 2006 2:58 PM

Michael is entitled to his opinions, however ridiculous and arrogant they may seem to some. But for people to simply start blabbing, in a public forum, about boycotting his restaurants and making baseless assumptions that he employs illegal immigrants, followed by veiled threats to send federal agents to his kitchens is simply bad form. Stick to the debate at hand!

Posted by: Frank Puma | October 16, 2006 3:53 PM

What a strange response. It's apparent he didn't understand your column--that you were reporting on, not necessarily endorsing, Jenkins's views. (And frankly, even if you were endorsing those views, I think his response was way too self-righteously over the top.)

This was especially ridiculous: "Perhaps, as seems to be suggested, even approved, in your news article, individuals of lesser status as "Americans" can be identified by legally enforced symbols sewn into their clothing, so that all can see just exactly with whom we are dealing."

It is a huge--HUGE--leap from enforcing our immigration laws to the Nuremburg Laws. And I for one am very tired of advocates of illegal immigrants/undocumented immigrants (choose your term) trying to shut down the discussion by accusing everyone on the other side of racism or worse. I think Godwin's law applies here, by default.

Posted by: NYC | October 16, 2006 4:01 PM

"For other commenters, please refrain from baseless accusations about how Landrum runs his restaurants. He will conduct his businesses as he will, presumably within the law, and it is not up to the peanut gallery to judge his practices. I recall that we as a nation threw out "guilty until proven innocent" as a tenet some time ago."

Are you 12? The whole "guilty until proven innocent" has to do with a CRIMINAL TRIAL, it has nothing to do with the court of public opinion.

The funny thing about opinions are--everyone has one. And a negative response is just one of the risks you run when you write to a journalist. Jenkins had an opinion, Marc wrote about it, Mr. Nutjob offered HIS opinion in response, the readers are offering THEIRS--see how it works? It's not "judging him"--it's public discourse. If he's free to jump to insane conclusions and comparisons to Nazi Germany (Godwin--Marc wins!), then surely the readers are free to speculate on his motives. (And please, don't be so naive. of course he's using illegal labor. The industry is predicated on it. If he weren't he would be using that as a selling point, because EVERY restaurant uses illegal labor, otherwise we'd be paying insane amounts of money for a meal out.)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 16, 2006 4:23 PM

It's notable that this post started out in violation of Godwin's Law. Where good could it possibly go from here?

I live in Dupont Circle, DC. Many of the same nostalgia-inspired qualities of home that Marc's protagonist sees in Culpepper, I see in Dupont, a densely-populated neighborhood of 20-some thousand people. The independently-owned corner stores, hardware stores, restaurants, bars... We've got them all, and then some, including a real sense of community. We even had a place on Connecticut Ave called "Food for Thought".

Anyway, we've also got a large population of non-US citizens, and have for a long time now. They work at everything from construction trades to restaurants to embassies, to the World Bank and IMF. Many of our most-loved places are owned and/or operated by immigrants from Greece, Ethiopia, Turkey, China, Mexico, El Salvador, etc. They're our welcome neighbors.

I'd suggest the good people of Culpepper try getting to know the people who come from afar to their city. They are as human as any of us, and often have very interesting perspectives. They might just pleasantly surprise you.

Posted by: Mark | October 16, 2006 4:37 PM

"And please, don't be so naive. of course he's using illegal labor. The industry is predicated on it. If he weren't he would be using that as a selling point, because EVERY restaurant uses illegal labor, otherwise we'd be paying insane amounts of money for a meal out.)"

This is not an opinion, but a slanderous statement against 2 legitmate restaurants that happen to have earned the respect of the dining public and food critics. Michael, if you read this, I urge you to look into your legal options!!

Posted by: Frank Puma | October 16, 2006 4:47 PM

Marc,
I find it pretty interesting that you failed to post that Michael's posting to you were private emails that you decided to make public. I believe your are bordering on libel? Do I think Michael took your words a bit too far out of context? Yes. Did you have the right to transfer a private educated email discussion onto a public forum? NO! Shame on you for tying his name and his two restaurants to an email war that you made public on your blog. Why would you think it appropriate to list his establishments? Now you have distorted your readers' perceptions of a good restaurant. Oh yea, please tell me where in your 'Discussion Guidelines' it gives you or the Washington Post permission to do what you did? Sue away Michael, sue away.

Posted by: Scott and Dani | October 16, 2006 6:10 PM

"Those who've moved here from Northern Virginia -- to them, this immigration thing isn't something of great significance," Jenkins says. "They're not concerned about the urbanization of Culpeper, but for those of us who've been here a long time, well, it's driving people away, down to Southwest Virginia, mostly."

As someone who lives in Southwest Virginia, those Northern Virginians can stay up there. We don't need them coming down here building huge ugly McHouses and increasing our real estate taxes. For ages, NOVA residents have made fun of us from the mountains for the way we talk and live so don't expect us to embrace them with open arms.

Posted by: Tazewell County VA | October 16, 2006 6:30 PM

Hey Tazewell if it wasnt for us NOVA's your ignorant self would be paying taxes of all types to include property taxes. We subsidize the rest of the state. Fairfax County residents get less than 22 cents of every state tax dollar they send to Richmond. I beleive your county gets about $1.12 in state tax revenue. You county taxes especially property taxes are artifically low becasue of me. Time for NOVA to secede!

The immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century were 99% legal. Very few were illegal. There were no state documents in Polish, Italian or Russian! English should be the offical langauge both in Va and for the US. No Spanish, Vietnamese etc. My Panamanian girlfriend learned English. You can too.!

Posted by: VAherder | October 17, 2006 6:29 AM

To VAherder:

My point exactly. You called me ignorant. You have no idea who I am or anything about me yet you automatically decide because I from the mountains I am ignorant. I didn't call you names, so why do you feel the need to belittle me? For the record I have a BS from ODU and graduated magna cum laude. Your property taxes are not my fault. No one tells you to build huge homes and drive luxury cars. Y'all decide that for yourselves. As far as taxes go, you need to research how much coal taxes have been paid over the years and how much have benefited NOVA and Richmond while Southwest Virginia has gone without basic services.

Posted by: Tazewell County | October 17, 2006 8:29 AM

What purpose is served by publishing these letters that were sent not as an article to be published but as personal correspondence?
Michael has a point that you, for whatever reason, gave a platform to racism and painted it as something quaint and folksy.

Posted by: Phil | October 17, 2006 8:42 AM

Mr. Landrum has the courage of his convictions. By identifying his business connections, he has invited a financial price for expressing what are obviously sincerely, deeply held beliefs. I applaud that. Mr. Landrum has learned a lesson from history that others have not -- that people LIKE to make others "the other", and when you do that, you necessarily end up visiting pain or worse upon those deemed "the other". Marc's article harkened back to "happier, simpler" times -- times during which segregation was king -- without any criticism, and that Mr. Landrum is basically saying that silence is approval. I note that Marc STILL seems to have no problem with Culpeper as it used to be, because if he did, he would have said so by now. So many like to paint Bush as a cryptoNazi but, as Mr. landrum correctly recognizes, the real danger is from those who make Hispanics "the other". Their presumed illegality is just the cover for their hatred.

Posted by: RL | October 17, 2006 10:53 AM

"I'm sorry to hear that the owner of such a widely respected business is that cavalier about spurning customers about whom he knows nothing." Actually Marc, he knows you don't get outraged when white guys decide to pick on Hispanics, just because they can, seeing as how, when you met up with one, you were silent. Which was his point.

Posted by: simple reasoning | October 17, 2006 11:04 AM

While Landrum diatribes were undoubtedly overblown, the underlying sentiments are, I think, legitimate. The article--regardless of whether Fisher endorses Jenkins' specific views--situates racist sentiments in pastoral nostalgia, thus presenting them in a sympathetic manner that serves to legitimize and buttress institutional racism. That Fisher does not explicitly endorse Jenkins' xenophobia is hardly surprising, but to suggest that his article is not laced with a tacitly racist subtext would be likewise remiss. Through Fisher's lens, we see only the immigrants that Jenkins portrays--those loitering in the shopping centers, crowding in houses, and draining city resources--and thus receive a skewed, biased perception of reality. While Fisher himself claims that challenging assumptions is one journalistic responsibility, his article fails to question Jenkins' position or provide an alternative perspective. Why, for example, has the influx of NOVA residents (and their accompanying businesses), which ostensibly destabilized Culpeper's small town charm, not generated a similar response?

I've noticed a previous discussion on Fisher's dual roles as reporter and opinion columnist, and to me, one cannot fully be divorced from the other. That is, despite one's best attempts at objectivity, the reporter cannot fully evacuate subjectivity (overt or implicity) from his or her text. As the author of this text, Fisher chooses the perspective and details to include and the framework in which to contextualize the story. Fisher writes, "The Culpeper council member I wrote about Sunday should be able to recognize himself in the piece no matter what I may think of his views." This may be true, but Fisher's views are likewise apparent, and these views, however subtle, lend credence to the underpinnings of Landrum's vitriol.

Posted by: Baltimore | October 17, 2006 11:36 AM

I truly hope that Michael Landrum agreed to have his messages posted in such a way. Marc, are you going to let your audience know whether or not you asked permission to publish his e-mails??

Posted by: Alexandria, VA | October 17, 2006 3:30 PM

After a few days' thinking further on this, it finally clicked why Mr. Landrum's two tirades annoyed me so deeply. It's that Mr. Landrum has confused the roles he assigned to the respective parties in his argument. The ones condemning illegal immigration aren't in any way Nazi-like. In fact, just the opposite seems to be true. It's the amoral slimebag "businessmen" knowingly hiring illegals at slave wages and thereby encouraging the flood of illicit human traffic across our borders. Without their fueling of the problem, we wouldn't be seeing countless hundreds of people dying every year in our deserts and in abandoned coyote cargo trucks. It's not the folks trying to seal our borders who are getting people killed; it's the corrupt businesses that lure them to their deaths with promises of easy under-the-table employment. You would think, to read Mr. Landrum's comments, that these greedy cretins are the modern-day equivalent of Oskar Schindler, hiring these poor souls to keep them alive and safe from persecution. How convenient, how self-serving, and how totally divorced from reality (and accountability). The truth is far, far darker. Anyone hiring an illegal immigrant has blood on his or her hands, period.

Posted by: KR20852 | October 17, 2006 7:36 PM

KR20852 or whatever your name really is-
You said earlier that:
"I am assuming that Mr. Landrum's business was not built on the backs of illegal immigrants being paid lower wages and fewer benefits than those that legal workers would receive..."
So why do you keep banging on about it as if he did employ illegal immigrants on low wages. If you knew how he ran his businesses you would be better informed. Clearly you do not - and there's enough ingorance on this page without your adding to it.

Posted by: Phil | October 18, 2006 10:02 AM

Love Rays the Steaks. Landrum is an idiot, but can that boy cook

Posted by: DC | October 18, 2006 1:24 PM

He's right, Marc. You wrote a sympathetic article about a guy who thinks that people for whom English is a second language should be denied full and fair access to our courts! Stop and think about that for a minute.

Posted by: Emily | October 18, 2006 2:15 PM

Having grown up in a small town, I can sympathize with Steve Jenkins' feelings of nostalgia for the way things used to be. I had to move away in order to find work, and now I watch as people from large cities move into places like my hometown because they like the small town feeling--and once the influx starts, they destroy the qualities that attracted them in the first place.

I can't, though, sympathize with Mr. Jenkins' methods of turning back the clock. Illegal immigrants are a reality in this country because of several factors, not the least of which is that US policies in several Central American countries destabilized those countries so much that people started fleeing. I would be willing to bet that 30 or 40 years ago, most people in the US had little knowledge of any Central American country and few Central Americans had relatives here. Now the populations of entire villages in those countries are living in the US, including the DC area. And they have been welcomed with arms that are about as wide open as they were for any other immigrant group, which is to say, not very.

But comparing Mr. Jenkins to a Nazi is ridiculous, and as for Marc Fisher's column, I find that I'm pretty capable of reading it and drawing my own conclusions. I don't need him, Michael Landrum or Steve Jenkins to tell me what to think. But if we don't listen to opinions other than our own, how can we learn new things and enter into debates that can lead to solving issues like immigration?

If I were you, Marc, my next step would be to call Michael Landrum and see about doing a column on him and his workers. Are they illegal? Are they poor? Does he treat them well? There's plenty of speculation going on, but few answers in this dialogue.

Posted by: DC | October 18, 2006 3:29 PM

Michael Landrum is right on the money. Irresponsible hacks like you under the guise of "journalism" are what fuel the flames of hatred and racism. Wallow in your support of uneducated hick rednecks all you like but at the end of the day; you are no better than any of them.

p.s., We had reservation for Zeitina for tomorrow night but as soon as I click submit I will cancel that and go to Rays and hope to be able to shake Mr. Landrum's hand.

Posted by: Brain | October 19, 2006 12:22 PM

Jenkins was not following the rules when he was beating his wife or shaking down high school kids as a cop.

Posted by: anonymous | October 20, 2006 10:14 PM

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