Saturday, March 14, 2015

Conservatism, or lack thereof

Somehow at some point Upstate New York was labeled as conservative.  The New York Times in particular seems to enjoy the creation of two groups: the highly educated, progressive downstaters and the unsophisticated, backwards upstaters.  Perhaps this dichotomy helps readership, but the reality is that Rochesterians have a proud progressive history and continue to take pride in defying convention:

  • In 1838, Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in Maryland.  He ultimately settled in Rochester where he published the abolitionist newspaper The North Star and established Rochester as an important part of the Underground Railroad.  He inspired Rochesterians to erect the first statue in the country which memorialized an African American citizen and is buried in Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery.
  • Susan B. Anthony, born in Massachusetts, spent her adult life in Rochester.  As a prominent champion for women's voting rights, her work helped contribute to the 19th Constitutional amendment.  Her home in Rochester is now a popular museum, and her famed illegal vote on November 5, 1872 is now the site of 1872 Cafe.  She, too, is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
  • In 2012, as per survey results released by the Gallup Organization, 29.2% of Rochesterians described themselves as very religious.  This percentage placed Rochester as the 23rd least religious metro area out of the 189 surveyed.  (Interestingly, the New York City metro reported 32.6% as very religious, thus coming in as the 42nd least religious.)
  • In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court was asked in Town of Greece v. Galloway to rule on the constitutionality of Christian prayer before legislative bodies (such as city councils.)  The case originated in Rochester's largest suburb of Greece (hence the name.)  While the court ultimately upheld Christian prayer, Greece subsequently allowed the first atheist invocation at its town board meeting.
  • In 2014, the Human Rights Campaign released a Municipal Equality Index (MEI.)  The MEI examines the laws, policies, and services of municipalities and rates them on the basis of inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work there.  A total of 353 cities were examined with all states being represented.  Rochester scored 100 out of 100, being one of only 38 cities to achieve a perfect score.

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