Monday, September 27, 2010

A Sense Of Place

"Would you ever want to retire to South Carolina?"

"What? No! Of course not."

"Why not? We could get away from the winter... winter down there, summer up here."

"Why would I want to get away from the winter? Besides, I don't want to move. Ever. This is home."

We left it at that. My wife thought I was crazy.


Saturday I was driving one of my favorite stretches of road. Route 146 winds through wooded hills. The leaves are just starting to turn. Every now and then you catch a glimpse of cows on a hillside, a peek at a farm, a spire in the distance. The sun was low and yellow. I had to pay attention to the road and make sure I took my exit. It was one of those days where I could have just kept driving.

It's happened before. I've driven a hundred miles out of my way, looking at the scenery, driving down the road on an early autumn day. Watching the birds and the play of light on leaf. With the radio on and the windows down, I forget I am going somewhere. A green exit sign catches my eye. I realize I missed my exit 50 miles ago. There's nothing for it but to turn around. I'm late and I don't care. The road back is just as beautiful. It's happened to me before.

More than once.


My son brought home a worksheet for history class. He needed to find out when his family came to America. He asked his mother first. She is half Sicilian, half French-Canadian. All four of her grandparents were immigrants and she knew them all. She answered his questions easily. Then he came to me.

"Dad, when did your family come to America?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?"

"I don't know. It was a long time ago. I don't think anyone knows. Do you want me to ask your grandfather? He knows more than I do."

He did. I called my father. No one home.

"Well, Grampa's not home. But I'll tell you this, I've seen colonial-era graves of some of the family. Why don't you just put 1750." He misheard me and wrote 1715. I looked at his paper.

"It's close enough. Don't bother to change it. I'll ask your grandfather another time."

"Did any of our relatives fight in the Civil War?"

"Yes." I told him what I knew.

"Did any of our relatives fight in the Revolution?"

"Probably. I'll be very surprised if they didn't. But you'll have to ask your grandfather. He's the one who would know."


He asked his grandfather on Sunday. In 1685, we were already here, fishing off Cape Ann. No one knows when those ancestors arrived. Sometime before that. He showed us handwritten notes on fishing vessels lost at sea, land transfers, marriages, deaths. He showed us military records on Col. Jabez Merchant from the Revolution, and Sgt. Thomas Donahoe from the Civil and Indian Wars.

And I could see in my son's eyes that he was finding his sense of place.

I live 72 miles from Gloucester, where my family first lived, in what was then the Massachusetts Bay Colony. My parents live closer. Some of the family has never moved. The drive is under two hours. They think I live far away.

He told his mother that night all the things he had learned. She gave me a funny look. And it seemed like she was beginning to understand why I won't retire to South Carolina. And why I don't complain about the winter. And why I get lost on the highway on beautiful autumn days. This is home. I want to live here and die here, just like all the others. This is where I belong.

This will always be my place.

Respectfully Yours,


Friday, September 24, 2010

Humble Pie

You may notice that my previous post has been deleted.

Anyone who has read my posts will know that I am no fan of the current administration. Neither am I a fan of his most vocal opposition. In my opinion, both are wrong.

Even so, any solution to our problems must begin with a sense of shared humanity and an intention to find those points on which we can agree. Pride and anger are still sins, even if we feel we are right.

A recent comment has left me to wonder if, in my last post, I have not crossed the line between humor and hatred, between satire and spite. I will take the comment itself as evidence that I have. Pride and anger are sins. It is better to approach even our differences in a spirit of love and humility. Sometimes we all need to be reminded of this.

So, Andy, you were right. I was wrong. I apologize, and thank you for the reminder.

Very Truly Yours,



Monday, September 6, 2010

Another Cup Of Tea

Taxed enough already! I hear the Tea Partiers cry. Those fascist, socialist, big gub'mint, tax-and-spend, liberal elite, pork-barrel politicians are going to take away my freedom! It's not the government's money. It's our money! In America, we don't redistribute wealth, we earn it! Don't spread my wealth, spread my work ethic! You didn't work hard for what I have! We're not going to take it!

Sound familiar? Let's think about this in light of the facts, courtesy of the Tax Foundation, not exactly a bunch of commie-pinkos.

Some states receive more in federal aid than they pay in federal tax; others pay more in tax than they receive in aid. Hmmm, I wonder....

Yikes! It looks like 8 out of the top 10 "recipient states" are Red States - you know, anti-tax, small gub'mint folks. And it would be 9 out of 10 if Virginia didn't momentarily forget itself and go Blue for a minute in November, 2008. If New Mexico swings back Red? All of them.

In fact, out of the 32 total recipient states, 23 are anti-tax, small gub'mint, Republican votin', Tea Party lovin', gun totin', Bible-thumpin' Red States. And it would be 25 if Virginia and North Carolina didn't momentarily forget themselves and briefly go Blue.

Yep. These folks sure hate the Federal Gub'mint. They're all about States Rights. Heck, some of 'em even started a little dust-up over States Rights back in the 1860s. Hm. I know we liberal elites don't know American history too well. Let's think... what did they want the right to do again?

Well, never mind that. Let's take a look at the "donor states." Wow! 13 out of the 17 donor states are Blue States: fascist, socialist, big gub'mint, tax-and-spend, liberal elite, pork-barrel states. It almost looks like one-third of us are paying the bills for the other two-thirds.

So whyizzit you Tea Party folks hate taxes so much again?

It's not the government's money. It's our money! Well, not really. It's not your money. It's our money. It goes from us, to you.

In America, we don't redistribute wealth! Actually, we do redistribute wealth. We take our wealth and give it to you. But if you don't like it feel free to send it back.

Tax-and-spend? Well sort of. We're the "tax" part; you're the "spend" part.

Too much pork? You want to see gub'mint pork? Look in the mirror. Now smile and say "oink." Still want to end the pork in Washington?

But you're taxed enough already? You're not going to take it anymore? It looks as if anyone ought to be complaining about taxes it's us: the unpatriotic liberal elite who pay your bills. I wonder why we don't complain more. I guess we're just too busy hating America or something.

But really, I'm sorry you're so oppressed by the Federal Gub'mint. It takes one dollar from you and gives you back a dollar-fifty, or even two. I see why you're mad as hell. Such tyranny is intolerable. Good luck in 2010 with those tax cuts you want. I hope that works out for you.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good slogan.

Very Truly Yours,



Friday, September 3, 2010

Abolish Labor Day

I recently heard the following sentence on CNN: "Because of high winds, about 250,000 people in New England are without power." I thought, "Gee, when you think about it, about 275 million people in America are without power. They just aren't aware of it."

George Carlin


It was a good idea once: Labor Day, a holiday for the American worker, a day to remember the people who actually do the work of society. But it's done now. Worker's rights are a thing of the past. We're almost where we were in the 1880s. At least some of the old Robber Barons thought the world owed you something:

I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand;
that the world owes no man a living
but it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.

John D. Rockefeller

Think about it: the opportunity to make a living. These days, you're supposed to be grateful if you even have a job. Corporate rights are all the rage now. You, the worker, are disposable. Have a nice day, and thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart.

Let's think for a minute about all that Corporate America has opposed over the years, shall we?

- child labor laws
- anti-trust legislation
- the right to form a union
- the right to strike
- the 40-hour work week
- the minimum wage
- workplace safety regulations
- environmental regulations
- whistleblower protection

And that's just the beginning. We wouldn't want to interfere with the free market, right? That is, unless we run our corporation right into the ground. Then, we want you, the workers, to bail us out with your tax dollars. But we can't nationalize the business even though, in essence, it was just purchased for far more than it was worth. That would be (wait for it)... socialism.

No. You just give the money directly to us. We'll keep the business, thank you. And the bonuses. We're too big to fail. We're too rich to be poor. Even if we've lost everything through our own greed and incompetence. You, the worker, can make us whole again.

And then you can go to hell.

Here's a thought: the average Chinese worker makes between $100-$300 a month. Let's go with the high end; that's $3600 a year. That's the free market, folks. Ready to compete? Maybe a nice tax cut would help?

Well, it would help the rich get richer, but it won't bring those jobs back. Not until an American worker can get by on $3600 a year.

The American worker still has some rights. You have the right to be urine-tested to make sure you're fit to bag groceries. You have the right to be fired for smoking off the job. You have the right to shut up and get to work and do what you're told. Don't forget, Corporate America loves high unemployment. It's great for keeping workers in line, depressing wages, and cutting benefits.

So let's abolish Labor Day. Anything it once represented is gone now. And besides, most of you will be at work anyway. But if you have the time, maybe read up on the Pullman Strike, or the Ludlow Massacre, or even the PATCO strike. Think about old Henry Ford and his hired goons. Take a minute to remember why there needed to be a labor movement in the first place.

Then throw some burgers on the grill. Crack a cold beer and curse the memory of Ronald Reagan. And remember, you're disposable. Have a nice day, and thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart.

We can reinstate Labor Day when we've earned it back.

Very Truly Yours,