On Sunday the Espinoza family of Bowling Green, Ky., found a smoldering symbol of hate on their lawn in the form of a burning cross. A grammatically butchered sign accompanied the flaming missive. The sign urged them to leave the upper middle class neighborhood that they moved to just a few months ago. It read in part, "If you can't read this. Oddy Ouss!!" Included here are pictures of both.
It's worth mentioning that Nelson Espinoza and his wife Morena—both natives if El Slavador—are here legally. They are also terrified. When I met the young couple at their home yesterday afternoon, Morena looked as if she'd been crying for hours. They are afraid to leave the house and just as scared to stay in it. They have a difficult decision to make: stay in their dream home and make a stand against this hateful ignorance, or just sell the damn place and leave Kentucky in the rearview mirror.
It seems that the church, police department and at least a few business owners in the area are fully behind the Espinozas. They have even organized a rally, slated for Oct. 1, to show solidarity against the forces of galactic stupidity and intolerance.
But this cross burning, combined with other recent events—a Springfield alderman saying that people who are bilingual are most likely here illegally and should be placed in barb-wire cages, a Clarksville city councilman drafting an ordinance that would punish anyone who rented or hired an undocumented worker and English-only laws soon to be debated here in Nashville—reveal that the patina of civility and open mindedness that the "New South" claims is perhaps a thinner shell than I'd hoped. There was a distinct nervousness by some of Bowling Green's local leaders—even those who support the Espinozas—that "outside agitators" might descend on the town in response to the cross burning and upset the status quo.