Friday, June 10, 2011

What it Means to be a Freeporter

Howdy, Freeport!

Today...I have a difficult task ahead of me. I'm going to attempt, probably with only limited success, to crystallize my feelings on what exactly Freeport, New York is and, more importantly, the spirit behind those who call themselves "Freeporters." Before I can really do that, however, I have to inform you of the impetus for my choice of subject; and that is the toughest part, because its one of the most emotionally challenging, complicating the intellectual challenge of defining a town.

The reason for this article is that on the fifteen of this month I intend to move in with my girlfriend. This is undoubtedly a cause for great joy. For the purposes of this publication, however, the problem is that all of the apartments we saw in Freeport were either already taken or not up to the standard she and I required. We instead found a place in Hempstead that she fell in love with, and we've opted to go with it. Assuming that holds true, in less than a week I will cease to be a Freeporter.

...Or will I? You see, there's something rather unique about Freeport. I don't mean its demographics, I don't mean its architecture, and I don't mean its alleged dichotomy between north-and-south. I mean to say that Freeport itself is a cultural identity that anyone who has lived here for a few weeks will touch - but only those who have lived here for an extended period will fully understand.

What is Freeport, New York?

Freeport is a town that, despite some troubles in its past, has in general come together to form a solid identity. Oh, there's disagreements! We fight over politics (sadly, to a fault), and we all have our own way of doing things as individuals However, has this ever superseded the fact that when one of us says "Nautical Mile," the rest of us knows precisely what they're talking about? I don't think so. Whether we agree or disagree over a given administration's performance, we all share an identity as Freeporters.

Maybe this is more a byproduct of the fact that I'm comparatively young, when those who have lived in the Village since the 1960's have indeed observed change. It doesn't take me too long to find people at the high school where I work who observed Freeport at what is arguably its worst - race riots on par with those that took place in Westbury and elsewhere. Perhaps, looking further back, its true that Freeport has an unpleasant side in history - it was, at a time, a bastion of the KKK. Truly, Freeport has seen its share of inequality and prejudice, and thus at one point wasn't a very nice place to live.

No more.

Today, by and large and with very few exceptions, Freeport is a place of harmony. There will always be people who subscribe to racist ethnocentricities; people of all creeds and colors have succumbed to such unfortunate systems. But if you look at Freeport's youth for its future, not its present or past, you'll find a town filled with children who, for the most part, were raised in a multicultural context and are as close to "color-blind" as humankind can probably ever become. Those who seek to demonize Freeporters are racist, or as caught up in gang affairs, or as biased based on the area in which they live are wrong.

Being a Freeporter involves all of these things. As a paraphrasing of a classic statement goes, "you can take the Freeporter out of Freeport, but you can't take the Freeport out of a Freeporter." Or, something like that, you figure it out, but the point is: As I prepare to leave Freeport on at what will likely a one-year lease, I realize that wherever I live I will always be "from Freeport," and will always be a Freeporter. Its something that can never change, and while I hope to return to the Village in the future I also realize that, should I move near or far, I will bring Freeport with me to new people. I will bring that simple spirit of getting along with people and, with any luck, convince others that our way can work with theirs.

Future of Jesse Pohlman's The Weekly Freeporter

I suppose for some of my readers this will raise the question of whether or not I am going to continue this blog. My answer is that I don't know. I'll still work in the Village, and I will spend considerable time here...But I don't know if that qualifies me as someone really capable of speaking up about what's going on at the present day.
I'm sure that I'll write at least one or two more articles about what I think Freeport's biggest challenges will be going forward, but after that?

I've considered doing a sort of "correspondence" thing, where I examine my new home through the critical lens of the old; I think that'd be trite, and it wouldn't let me judge my surroundings for themselves. I will definitely not be passing The Weekly Freeporter on to another writer - I think that if it ends, then it ends. I also know that I won't be taking it down, since I think everyone should have access to everything I've said in the past because I don't believe in revisionism and deleted blogs make for easy historical editing.

Enough about what I know I won't do, lets talk about what I might. I most likely will use this space as a place to report on any experiences I have when I'm in town; that will be relatively frequent, at least for the immediate future, as my friends and family still live here and I will certainly see people on the Nautical Mile at times. My fear with that idea is that this turns into a "this is what I did" blog, not a "this is what's going on" one. My other potential idea is that I would endorse a new, up-and-coming blogger (or bloggers?) about the Village. I wouldn't make an endorsement lightly, as I would need to be convinced that said candidate(s) would hold to the same ideals I stand for.

For those who caught my radio interview on this subject, I'm a big fan of pursuing the truth, and that was The Weekly Freeporter's genesis. In the interest of disclosure, I'm definitely not the first person to think of writing about Freeport on the internet - this guy was. At least, I think he was; I could be wrong. It had its flaws and it was probably ahead of its time even considering those; it clearly died out in 2003! Yet, this website was indeed one of the first I've found about our Village.

It took a while for the internet to mature before such an endeavor could be nearly as fruitful as this one, but here we are. Did you know this is the 75th post to The Weekly Freeporter? Its been a long ride. And, in so many ways, its only the beginning - and that's how I'll leave this.

Take care!