April 27, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: A global black eye
By Jeff Rapsis

Is there a need to weigh in on Nashua Alderman Fred Teeboom’s shameful response to a citizen’s comment?

Teeboom’s e-mail brush-off of a German-born constituent, telling him to go back to “das Fatherland” if he didn’t like Nashua, has been roundly criticized from all corners for its insensitivity.

And Teeboom’s transparently bogus apology, in which the alderman essentially said he was sorry we all don’t understand his world view but expressed not one whit of true regret, has also been recognized for what it was: a completely empty gesture.

But there is one aspect of the incident that no one’s yet picked up on yet, so here goes. Teeboom’s poor judgment isn’t a local issue. Thanks to the Internet, his comments are available everywhere. And it’s amazing how these things can snowball.

Exhibit A: an e-mail chain recently forwarded to us by Teeboom himself, which includes comments submitted to Nashua’s city Web site from “Klaus Quinque,” a German citizen.

Here’s an excerpt: “Americans have a unique ability to collect enemies all over the world. I am happy to belong to the statistically 92 percent Germans who are against you people. You don’t deserve better.”

Well, you can’t please everyone. But where did the comment come from? A quick check of German news sites shows the Teeboom incident has gotten good play in such publications as Bild and Stern, which are Deutschland’s equivalent of Time and Newsweek.

So what? Well, only this: Germany is New Hampshire’s fourth-largest international trading partner. In 2004, our exports there totaled $143 million. Germany is so important to the Granite State economically that Gov. John Lynch led a trade mission there last fall.

Like it or not, we’re part of a global economy—what used to be Sanders Associates is now a British company, for Pete’s sake. The good news, however, is that New Hampshire is in a good position to benefit, especially in knowledge-based industries that will power economic growth in the 21st century.

And now we have Teeboom, an elected official in the state’s second largest city, making ignorant and stupid comments that will be archived forever online and readily available for anyone who Googles “Nashua” or “New Hampshire.”

That’s bad for us, in the same way that the anti-gay activist Fred Phelps (the guy who pickets funerals of homosexuals with signs saying the deceased will burn in hell) is bad for Topeka, Kan., his hometown. And it is: the town’s economy has stagnated for decades, in part because most business leaders who think about relocating there get one whiff of Phelps and immediately cross Topeka off their list.

Thanks to Teeboom, it’s now a bit easier for European business leaders with U.S. operations to cross us off the list: “Oh, the city of Nashua, that’s where that goofball hates the Germans.”

As a private citizen, Teeboom is entitled to harbor whatever creepy xenophobic grudge he wants. But as an elected official, he ought to understand that his insulting and insensitive behavior can quickly become a global black eye for his city and his state.

You’d think that someone who professes to be as technologically savvy as Teeboom would understand this.


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