I drank my morning cuppa waiting for the Inbound Fitchburg to Boston commuter train. The brisk breeze buffeted my chilled ears while I stood on the outbound side of the track, counter intuitive as this may seem, construction ongoing on the rail further up the line caused my confusion along with several of my fellow travelers. I had just returned to the station from a quick diversion to the local convenience store where I engaged in a brief disquisition with the manager on the high price of tobacco products.
“Please don’t tell me that the current price of a package of cigarettes has reached over $8.00.” I remarked without invitation to the clerk standing behind the counter.
“Oh yeah! Welcome to Taxachussetts.” He replied obviously amused by his use of the outdated witticism and with himself for remembering it.
“Well, I would disagree on that being the soul cause of the exorbitant price but more to the point I can’t believe that people will pay so much for something so bad. However perhaps that is in their best interest and will encourage them to quit.” Came my sympathetic reply.
“And why would that be the case?” Asked the clerk, clearly in disagreement.
“Paying over $8.00 per pack just to damage your health doesn’t appear to be a very good deal to me.” I cautiously replied.
“We’re all going to die eventually, that is a certainty! So why shouldn’t I be able to smoke if I chose to do so.” He spoke with all the conviction of a Tea Party member insistent that his personal rights always trump wisdom.
“No one is less impressed with their own mortality than I, sir, but why rush the inevitability and make the journey less enjoyable for all concerned?” This was my final comment as I walked out the door to find my place on the platform with the rest of my comrades awaiting the 11:15 into Boston.
I’m traveling into the heart of my birth city, I’m a baked bean, born and raised. I’ve lived here for just about sixty-five years come this May eighth. Few cities hold such a deep felt place in my heart and I’ve visited quite a few in my short visit to this planet. Perhaps it’s the familiarity with the landmarks; there is a memory on just about every corner, some that go all the way back to my childhood. Don’t worry I have no intention of becoming maudlin; I have another story to relate.
I’m on this train to attend a Hearing at the Massachusetts State House in support of those Activists who will offer testimony to a Congressional Hearing on several bills, both House and Senate. The bill that I am most concerned with is SENATE Bill no. S-53 [Donnelly], one of the two Bills for a legislative Amendment to the MA Constitution, comments on them will be heard by the Joint Election Committee today at 2 pm; Room A-1 of the MA State House. The Amendment supports the premise that:
Corporations are not people
Money is not Speech
While my conveyance rumbles out of the West Concord Station I vaguely recall taking this same ride on another Spring day two years ago to support those speaking at an EPA Hearing on proposed new rules for reducing Carbon Emissions. Those emanating from Fossil Fuel powered Electric Generating Plants, then mostly coal powered. Today is a bit colder but no less vital to the wellbeing of our Democracy, environment, and our personal interests. I watch the same transition from bucolic village greenery to progressively increasing urban development as I race toward my beloved Boston.
The MBTA Rail car I’m seated in is well worn and has seen better days despite it being WiFi equipped. It shows its age just as surely as I do. I muse to myself how wonderful public transportation could be if only a fraction of the vast sums currently being spent to influence our elections and funneled into our 2016 election cycle in support of both dysfunctional Parties was diverted instead to upgrading, enhancing, and developing a truly 21st Century Public Transportation System _ OR_
- Funding College Education for all Citizens.
- Fully funding Public Schools
- Improving the Nation’s infrastructure.
- Providing Single Payer Health Care Insurance.
- Research on the development of renewable energy.
- Development of a Solar Energy Storage Battery.
Any of the many dreams that Socialists envision for the US.
But then I remember that this is not the agenda of the royal wannabe Brothers from Wichita who abhor all things that hint of socialism no matter how beneficial those initiatives might be for lesser beings who reside among the ranks of 99%.
Arriving at North Station a brief forty-five minutes later I walk through the ‘Gardens’; hallowed ground for many Boston sports fans. I pass through the double doors out on to an unrecognizable city-scape, hopelessly cluttered with motor vehicles of all shapes and sizes spewing CO2 at an alarming rate while whizzing about at breakneck speeds obviously on business of paramount importance. Their drivers take little notice of me as I make my way up Stanford Street toward Cambridge Street. The smooth concrete sidewalks are easy for me to negotiate, a stark contrast to the uneven red brick paved walkways that attempt to foil my every step a short distance away from the Cambridge Street crossing. The pedestrian lights talk to me here in the city; informing me when I must wait and when it is safe to cross the busy thoroughfares, unfortunately the drivers here within the city pay stricter attention to their indicators than do their suburban cousins. These city denizens give no quarter to the slow or feeble when the traffic light swings in their favor. Finally reaching Temple Street I pass Suffolk University ensconced in the depths of Beacon Hill and I can see the white steps of my destination growing closer. Several urban dwellers are standing on Temple Street holding leashes with the cutest little dogs attached that I’ve ever seen, delicately doing their business in what ever spot seems most appropriate.
The State House is an impressive seat of State Government with its gleaming, golden dome, a granite edifice in which to conduct the peoples’ business. I caught up with my designated group of activists out front where they had taken up station at the North Gate and I assumed duty as the banner holder along with several other individuals who were handing out leaflets and imploring any and all passersby that a hearing of great import to them was to be held at 02:00 P.M. in room A-1. Most people were going about their noon time business and took little interest or notice of our ragtag band of grey haired aging Activists and I must admit to a momentary sense of deflated purpose because of their neglect but I soon took inspiration from our energetic leader, a woman who has a gift for engaging the common man/woman in the importance of the cause. Her effusive style, much like a Carnival hawker for people’s rights, coupled with boundless energy seemed to enthrall the masses of humanity that passed by and added some much needed esprite de corps to my flagging enthusiasm. Taking over for this civilian politician was another woman who made up for her quiet style with dogged determination. She was a kind, neatly dressed, short grey haired, attractive woman who would approach the endless stream of pedestrians with this effective phrase “there is a hearing inside today that you may want to attend” handing them a leaflet with information on how to contact their elected representatives. Some people stopped to hear more details and engage us in conversation, most were supportive and in full agreement but others were too intent on their own interests to considered even limited involvement. I guesstimated it was a 50/50 split. One humorous interaction that recalled another era of social activism; one that took place during a distant engagement of America’s very contentious and unpopular wars; a middle aged man driving by yelled out his window, “Get a job you Commie Fags!” we got a hoot out of that and I felt a sense of pride at having been considered as part of that brave group who opposed an unjust and useless war.
Finally the hour arrived and I walked through the labyrinth of ancient granite corridors that led to a subterranean room where a security detail of Statehouse Police checked me for contraband and directed me toward the elevator that would take me to Hearing room A-1. The Hearing Room itself was unimpressive as such. We’ve all seen in film and in the media august sessions of this Senate Hearing or that House committee pontificating from on high as the elected officials supposedly do their jobs seated at a raised curved desk behaving more like members of the Grand Inquisition. The MA Hearing chamber is less intimidating and those who go about the people’s business do so at eye level with the rest of us in the room. In attendance were Senator Thomas Kennedy (Committee Chair), Representative John Mahoney, Representative Rady Mom, Representative Mike Lombardo, and Representative Kevin Gordon. These men would out of necessity come and go because the State House being in session on budget proposals required their attention elsewhere from time to time so the members in attendance varied giving me the impression that they were not listening and that their attention was focused elsewhere.
The first two witnesses to give their testimony did so with divergent styles. A man, who I had just shared time holding the banner with outside but cannot recall his name, spoke first. He gave an impassioned speech that made up for in heart what it lacked in cohesive argument. Next to speak was a young woman who delivered a fiery, well thought argument for the eradication of big money in our political process. Next to take the stand was an elected official, Senator Kenneth Donnelly, the filler of the bill, who spoke forcefully for the inclusion of the PassMass Amendment on the ballot. Next we heard from Jack Kauffman who also spoke in favor of H.573 another but similar bill. Then Congresswoman Barbara L’Italien spoke in favor of the bill along with Janet Carson, who is the regional coordinator for Worchester County. It was difficult to hear in the Hearing room, the irony of that should not be lost on anyone, however another woman spoke very eloquently to the issue being addressed. I was only able to catch her first name and I’m not sure of that, I believe her name was Anita, a slight woman with intelligent dark eyes who delivered several letters and affidavits from supporters who could not attend.
It was at this point that I had to leave the proceeding in order to catch my train back to West Concord and my ill fated appointment with the Acton Minute Van. The detail of that unfortunate mishap I’ve documented previously
All in all I felt privileged to have been able to participate in our Democratic process, one that is currently under siege from Big Moneyed Corporate interests that seek to usurp the Rights and Inheritance of the American people. Those hard fought Rights, handed down by our founding Fathers, fought for by many generations of patriots, like my ‘Commie Fag’ comrades who peacefully go about the People’s business.