If there's one positive thing that's come of an intrinsically useless argument on a message board, it's curiosity about what the UK gypsies are. I've always been a little intrigued, one of the residents of Leigh was correct, my great grandparents on my mother's side were Scottish gypsies that roamed the West Coast clamming. Apparently that's how both of them were raised. The legacy ended when Grandma rented an apartment in downtown Portland and forced a stationary lifestyle on her offspring.
I don't have any romantic notions of what it must have been like for them. I've since found out that her father wasn't only selling fresh shellfish by the sea. He was also an employee of the FBI in one form or the other. A secret he kept up until after he died. The traveller lifestyle couldn't have been all that for him to take money from Uncle Sam and then have to hide it. I don't harbor any misplaced loyalties to any traveller population because if it either. My family's history only serves as an amusing anecdote during conversations about geneaology.
What I'm finding shocking about that message board in the present is how acceptable it is to claim that the travellers will lie, steal and cheat taxes. When there's no differentiating between one group from another, or even thinking that there may be some gypsy populations that abide by the law. It's perfectly ok just to call them all a bunch of dirty criminals without a second thought. Even someone who considers herself educated clamps on to these beliefs like they'd lead her to the Holy Grail.
I can't find any reason for it other than just cold hate and a few bad experiences. Their biggest argument seems to be rage that the last camp who went to Pennington Flash left litter. What the hell? The last few times I've been there it was covered in ASDA bags and cans of Strongbow like every other part of England with a bit of green on it. To an Englishman the home might be the castle but beyond the gates it's all an outhouse. Yet, not a single person on that board will even admit that English people litter, it was the gypsy camp that brought down the neighborhood.
At the behest of Barbara (who turned nasty) I've gone and done some research. To summarize, I've found I was right to say that many of the insults were needless prejudice. Another article elaborates even further how unfounded many of the commonly held opinions are, including many on that board. My claims of racism were correct as well since many gypsies are from recognized cultural and ethnic groups.
Every time I think to myself that it's amazing how far we've come over the last 40 years, something like this comes up. No matter how many words fall out of use, or groups protected, people will always need to feel better than someone else.
Paul Ross photography