Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tale of Two in the City

We can say not everyone was blissing out in the sun yesterday. One big batch was at the anti-Iraq-War rally on the Common. Another went to Gov. Deval Patrick's first of his series of town meetings, at Boston Latin. The events shared sincerity and liberalism, but little else.

The whole family and a son's friend joined the rally around the Common bandstand. It was simultaneously disappointingly poorly attended and energizing from the passion of those who did come.

The zeitgeist of the 60s in the anti-Vietnam-War times revisited, without the pro-war voices and hostile cops. In fact, for the cops, it seemed pretty boring. Most wore fluorescent yellow jackets and were ready for, for, well, something.

Instead, a dozen or so beefy guys lounged on their Harleys. A couple dozen bicycle cops (much trimmer, as one might expect) stood with their wheels until they couldn't stand it any longer. They'd then ride around the sidewalks (as we cyclists without fluorescent BPD jackets are forbidden to do). Eventually, a scouting party wheeled off to a local sandwich joint and returned with bags of carbs for their buddies with nothing to do but eat and joke.

This probably speaks to Washington's failures that the constabulary was not itching to hurt the protesters as their counterparts here and elsewhere did 40 years ago.

And of 40 years ago, the rally included quite a few college students. The younger kids were there with their largely Boomer parents. On the bandstand, the poets with their anti-war blank verse and the strumming and singing Vets against yet another travesty of a war were Boomers.

Around the circular sidewalk, other grey mustachioed singers were hard into Crosby Stills and Nash protest songs. They surely sang them all those years ago too.

There were some reassuring actors. Even the Communist Party USA handed out their tabloid.

Unfortunately, while the organizers claimed up to 4,000 at the rally, it looked like were between 1,000 and 2,000, even if you count the tourists wandering over.

One surprise hit was the opportunistic vegan group. They showed up with three dressed as a cow (NO WAR NO WHEY), a pig (PIGS FOR PEACE) and a chicken (MAKE TOFU NOT WAR). This was Vegan Outreach recruiting. The min-Boomers were smitten and their parents took the brochures.

The mood of the state and the nation certainly differs from those many years ago. The communist threat was been muddled with new business partners of China and Russia. Americans are sick of the waste of our young people's lives and limbs, and of perhaps a trillion dollars that could do good at home with no end nor even good results in sight.

Sadness, fatigue and sickness of heart don't fill the streets with protesters. Instead the action and pressure has shifted to Congress. Each of these rallies can't hurt as lobbying.

As the rally wound down, the don't-call-it-a-rally rally that was Deval Patrick's first of a series of town meetings creaked to a start at Boston Latin. Antithetical to Common gathering, this was a few famous local politicians and hope instead of despair.

Most of the two hours in the gym was Deval on stage with Mayor Thomas Menino. Now, there was a study in contrast.

A major similarity is that they both are homey guys who exude empathy for the voters. In other words, they are the anti-Mitt Romneys.

A half hour went to introductions. In such a wonderfully provincial city, the school administration treated this as a student civics project and production. The often strident headmaster, Cornelia Kelley, (soon to retire) was not there, but Assistant Headmaster Malcolm Flynn introduced a couple of star students to in turn introduce Menino and Patrick.

It was cute.

Flynn was not Mr. Excitement. The high-GPA students were adequate though and were fine addressing several hundred adults and a good contingent of press with video cameras. Then came Tommy.

The bloggers I was with were from Lowell, Dartmouth, Townsend and elsewhere beyond 128. They knew our mayor by reputation but apparently had never really experienced Menino the Magnificent.

First, let me note that Menino and Patrick had a strong overlap in message. They both returned to a central message along the lines of this is your government, tell your elected officials exactly what you need, want and expect. Then tell them again.

However, a number of my chums sat in the row in front of me. Their heaves of laughter at our longest-serving mayor got me giggling too.

Second, let me say that that dreadful Howie Carr of the Herald is not a good enough user of our shared language to rag on Menino for his poor diction and mispronunciations. We do understand what Menino says, or missays.

There was a bit of irony on the dais though after the student introduced him. She, like all Latin students, stands before dozens and sometimes hundreds of peers and teachers many times to declaim. They must recite from memory to be decent orators to take their part in fulfilling their citizenship duties. Tommy clearly was not a Latin grad.

However, he did share Deval's central message. As is his wont, he returned to his wording repeatedly. He would have us go "eyeball to eyeball" with our elected officials to lobby for what we want. My buddies were fairly gasping for air when he finished his statements. Yet, the sentiments and reasoning were solid...if amusingly presented.

Patrick had the crowd rocking, very rally-like for a non-rally. If he is chagrined by his stumbles over leased cars and expensive furniture, he didn't show it and the audience didn't blame him.

He was there as the fixer. In the question portion, various citizens tunneled down to their housing situations and the like. Patrick had an aide help taking the particulars when he couldn't direct them immediately.

He made it plain several times that while his team had won, it was time to govern. His refrain was to tell the audience, all voters to come tell the government what must be done. His recurring theme was, "Passive citizenship is not enough. If you want it, come and get it!"

His staff set high expectations, including his newly expanded devalpatrick.com, in contrast to both the campaign version and the mass.gov information portal. He claims that the site that came on line yesterday will make it easy to contact specific officials and get answers. Also, we'll have to monitor how and how well it works, but he promised that visitors can locate and start communities of interest to influence the state government.

We should surely recall that he has been in power for only 76 days. He hit the ground standing tall and then running, only to fall on his face a half dozen times as he got the hang of the duties and gimmicks of office.

I contend that while he may have started life very poor, he has spent the vast majority of his years in privilege -- schools, jobs, finances and acquaintances. I see class at issue here. He was long been accustomed to behaving like a rich guy, which he long as been. What's the difference between a Crown Vic and a Caddy to a wealthy lawyer? Maybe nothing, but he now knows that folk will be watching for any misstep to roll in the implications and possibility for schadenfreude.

Patrick hit the right notes and chords yesterday. It is likely that at the future town meetings, the other mayors may be in line with the goals, such as taxing telecommunications companies for lines and poles, adding a 1% meals tax and so forth.

Those other meetings are:
  • March 27, Worcester
  • April 2, Lowell
  • April 3, South Coast
  • April 9, Berkshires
  • April 11, Cape Cod
  • April 17, Springfield
  • April 24, Marlborough
Patrick has made specific promises. I am one of many voters who expects him to keep them.

Note for this blog's interests: There is a same-sex-marriage area on his new site. It is up top and getting a lot of traffic.

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