"When are you going to do something about those Muslims?"
"How did they get here?"
"They're rude, they smell."
"[REDACTED] has ruined this town. First it was the Mexicans, now this!"
"We just need to understand them."
"They're jihadists! Haven't you seen Black Hawk Down?"
These are just some of the questions and opinions that I have heard over the past year, asked by people from all walks of life in Bedford County. And since many of you asked, I felt that the variety of questions dealing with the influx of Somalis into our area had to be addressed.
In fact, this series would have been completed several months earlier had there been cooperation from the Somali community from the beginning.
Back in the summer, I was approached by an important local official who suggested doing a series on the Somalis in the hopes that telling their story would smooth over relations between them and the community at large. The problems that I have reported on, such as the rude and demanding attitude, have been causing an immense amount of friction and it was hoped that educating the public may help to create better understanding.
I agreed and the Somalis were contacted through those official channels.
However, no response was ever received. I waited for months.
In the meantime, people were still asking why we weren't "doing anything" about the Somalis, as if we could wave a magic wand and solve the many problems. In October, I got an earful from folks waiting with me at the driver's license testing center after a group of Somalis walked in, broke line and announced loudly that the veiled woman they had in tow was there to "test the road."
The rumors and stories I heard that day were disturbing. But they all had one theme in common - the attitude of these newcomers were causing an enormous amount of ugly feelings in the county, even more so than when the Hispanics began first moving to the area in great numbers. I found it likely that there would be serious trouble in the future.
Then, in late November, I became aware of the controversy going on in Emporia, Kansas - a town that appeared to have a great deal in common with Shelbyville, specifically a large employer that attracted huge numbers of foreign nationals into the community.
People that began clashing with the folks that lived there. Just like in Shelbyville.
So I set out to do the series anyhow, with or without the help of the people in question. Since the Somalis would not speak to me through official channels, I would contact the people who brought them to this country and go from there.
I've tried to cover every aspect of this story, yet it never seemed to be enough. More information would be sent to me or discovered, and I had to weigh how it would contribute to the overall series and if it were relevant to Shelbyville.
There were several things I left out. For example, this report from WSMV that dealt with the Somali Community Center of Nashville. There were some very disturbing allegations made there, yet I could not see how it impacted Shelbyville in a direct way. Simply including it in the series without some sort of a local connection might have been considered a cheap shot and I was trying to make this as balanced as possible.
In fact, there have been so many negative stories told to this reporter about the Somalis in Shelbyville that including all of them may have been interpreted by some as "piling on."
About the charges of overt political correctness: Again, I tried to be as balanced as I possibly could be, and unfortunately some folks didn't like the answers I got from the organizations who were responsible for bringing these refugees into our community. And some of these groups never even responded to my repeated calls and e-mails.
Those were their words, not mine and I was attempting to let the ideas of others speak for themselves so that the reader could understand the motivations and belief systems that drives the refugee resettlement movement. Doing so without the typical editorial comments seen in my blog and opinion columns appears to have left the impression that I agreed with everything I wrote.
That is certainly not the case, I assure you.
Indeed, many news articles written about the refugees does take that glowing politically correct, cultural diversity route while covering this story. But the problems related to settling these folks in modern society are overwhelming, as can be seen here.
When I began working on the series nearly a month ago, I knew I had to put my personal feelings and opinions aside if this was going to be a balanced piece. As you will see in my column set for publication Sunday, I have several serious reservations with how these people are being placed throughout the country.
I've always said that you know you're over the target when you start taking flak and judging from the responses I have received, I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do: Educate Bedford County about an extremely important issue that will have to be dealt with now and in the future.
How the public responds to it, is another matter entirely.
So, what did you think?