Irish immigrants, seeking escape from famine and hopelessness in the 1840s, settled in Montana ,where they found jobs and survival in the cooper mines. One of them, writing home to family saving money for the same passage of hope, enthusiastically proclaimed “Don’t stop in the United States come to Montana.”
Those finding jobs in the mills of Lawrence might have written a similar letter. The place is incidental to those seeking hope and possibility.
As the ocean remakes the contour of the shore, so, too, did the changing tide of ethnic identity reshape the city of Lawrence. Seen through the eyes of someone coming of age in the Lawrence of 1950s, today’s city would be unrecognizable in many ways.
Unlike some in my generation, I am not lamenting the loss of the Lawrence I knew, but rather am embracing the hope and categorical imperative of evolution — the essence of all life is change. I was heartened when Lawrence finally had its first Hispanic mayor. The dying embers of one culture are fanned and become the spark for whatever follows —out of the detritus and decay of the old something new is born.
When the textile mills began their southern migration, the livelihood and hope of many in Lawrence went “south” with it. Many decades later, the same hope of a better life receded further into the distance as Lawrence’s first Hispanic mayor demonstrated clearly with his actions what he was all about.
The changing ethnic tides, as it did with the Irish, brought malignant algae seeking only to secure a life of privilege, power and control over the population they purported to serve. Hope slowly ebbed away, as it became apparent that the outgoing mayor of Lawrence, like the immigrant miners in Montana extracting cooper from an Earth reluctant to yield its bounty to human kind, saw public office as an opportunity to extract whatever he could from an Hispanic community consumed with the day to day issues of survival. The aftermath of his incompetence was of little consequence to him.