My brother-in-law gave me a coffee mug for Christmas this year. Now I don’t drink coffee and do not consider mugs to be particularly thoughtful or interesting gifts. However, this mug is so terrific it wins my prize for Best Present 2008. Why? See for yourself:
(Yes, that reads "State Bank of Darfur. Darfur, Minn.")
Now I am all for civic pride, but I think once your town’s name has become synonymous with genocide, it might be time to think about changing that name or, at the very least, stop advertising it on souvenir coffee mugs. Why? I just don’t think “genocide” is the first image you want to give to
people who might be considering moving to your little town. It seems to me that living in Darfur, Minnesota would be a little like living in “Auschwitz, Colorado” or “Slave Ship, New Hampshire.” Of course there are no towns with those names because they are terrible, terrible names and nobody would allow their community to be called that.
Maybe the good people of Darfur, MN think they can use their considerable charms to offset any bad publicity their town’s name might be getting from the civil war in the Darfur region of Sudan, which has claimed more than a hundred thousand lives and displaced a million people. I love your pluck, Minnesotans, but I just don’t think that plan is going to work. For one thing, the war is on CNN a lot, and it’s hard for a small Minnesota town to compete with that kind of international attention by selling souvenir coffee mugs and “I ♥ Darfur” mouse pads. Maybe if you had some sort of crafts fair or something it would help, but I still think it’d be a pretty steep uphill climb.
For another thing, when I Googled “Darfur,” of the 9,000,000 hits I got, very few of them had anything to do with Minnesota. (To be perfectly honest, I stopped even looking after about three or four million.)
Sadly, the same is also true for Wikipedia. These were the entries for Darfur on that admittedly flawed website:
Darfur Accountability Act
Darfur conflict (lower case “c”)
Darfur genocide (lower case “g”)
Darfur Is Dying
Darfur is dying (lower case “i” and “d”)
I checked both Darfur Genocide pages to see if there was maybe some sort of genocide in Minnesota they were talking about. No such luck. As I suspected, all of the genocide in Darfur is pretty much confined to the Sudan.
Some good news, though: if you type in the full name, “Darfur, Minnesota,” there is a page on Wikipedia about the town includes information on median income ($31,563), and this unfortunate fact which is not going to score Darfur, MN any points in the “racial sensitivity” department: “The racial makeup of the city was 134 white people and 3 Asian people. There are no blacks or Hispanics.” Oops.
Here’s a suggestion for the town fathers: even though Darfur used to be a perfectly good name for a small agricultural community, now might be the time to consider renaming your hometown. What should be the new name? Honestly anything would be an improvement over what you have now. Even “Shit Hole, Minnesota” would be better. I know it’s a little edgy, but it’s certainly memorable, and if you’re looking to raise revenue, I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to sell a lot of coffee mugs that say “State Bank of Shit Hole.” I’ll personally buy two.