Recently in Politics Category
In a wonderful and moving tribute, the students at Center School in Stow make stars in honor of local service men and women and hang them on the windows.
Veterans Day is quite special to me. Pretty much every day I take a moment to celebrate that the freedoms we enjoy–of speech, assembly, voting–are made possible and protected by brave men and women who fight and have fought for us. They make incredible sacrifices, from disrupting their family lives to giving up their lives. They have done so for centuries, and continue to do so today.
I shudder to know, but readily admit I am not surprised, that there are those among us who consider serving in the military to be "about politics". At Milton High School in Massachusetts, the principal is arguing that if military recruiters are allowed to come to a career fair, the school must also have present anti-military protesters in order to give "equal time". Does the school require anti-[fill in your career here] protesters for other careers? Of course not. When the military comes to a career fair, this is just like any other career. But Milton High is going to demand that an organization called "Milton for Peace" should be there to provide alternative views. Does "Milton for Peace" stand for a certain career path? No. So why should they be allowed at a career fair? This is not too difficult an issue folks. It's quite silly that administrators are making these decisions because they feel a sense of duty to protect our kids from politics, yet are actually making it all about politics! A career in the military is certainly not about politics, it's about serving and protecting your country. Is "Milton for Peace" about politics? Just go check out their website where they say nothing about career paths, but rather post position statements of opinion concerning our current wars. School Committee member Mary Kelly made a wonderful argument saying basically this point. To which Principal John Drottar made the nonsensical statement, "the other side is to go back and ban both" and then continued to make further completely nonsensical statements. Others went on to say that graduating high school students are "impressionable" so they have to provide "alternative views" and "equal time", presumably to stop these stupid students from making an obviously wrong decision.
Even more shameful is Steve Almond who wrote an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe mid September where he bashed the military and its supporters. Now I can see where he's coming from. But he's simply misguided and I feel badly for him. He feels it's "tragic" that we, as a progressive society I assume, need to even have an army. That we pay soldiers to, first and foremost, kill people. We look to "heroic violence as a means of spiritual regeneration." And his next sentence is most hurtful of all: "Our most powerful nation myth is the notion that anyone fighting on our behalf is a hero."
I will tell you why I think these are stupid and dangerous words and fundamentally flawed. First and foremost, he has the freedom to write these words because others fought to obtain and protect those freedoms. Yet he conveniently overlooks that glaring fact. Is it "sad" that we had to defeat Hitler and Japanese Imperialism? Or were those great victories for democracy and freedom? It is a reality that people live and die. We live in an earthly realm. Conflict goes back to the Book of Genesis and wars are at the heart of The Old Testament. There is definitely a place where there is no war and no armies. Most call it heaven, but others call this place "Universe" or "The Enlightened Place" or "Collective Human Consciousness". It is vast and it is very real. I can attest to this, as I have been there. But this place, by whatever words we choose to call it, transcends our Earth-bound existence. As humans we are inexorably bound to our genetics which lead us into conflict. Conflict helps us to progress and provides context for our existence. There will always be those out there who will want to harm us. We cannot all live on Earth and be in The Enlightened Place. I don't expect that of humanity and neither should you.
So, I say to each and every veteran I meet: "Thank you for your service!" And I say it with as much pride as anything else I have or will ever say.
When you think of July 4th in America, you think of sun, fireworks, bands, parades, and barbeque. Well this year we didn't get all of those things. On July 3rd we went to Devens for their annual festivities of fireworks and the Metropolitan Wind Symphony playing all sorts of patriotic and toe tapping music. Unfortunately, we had been having a week of late day thunderstorms and one big one rolled in before the show began and they basically told us to leave. So we did. But friends of ours came later and the show and fireworks eventually went off. This is usually a fantastic event because members of the Massachusetts State Police and Army and Marine Reserves display equipment and talk to kids. It is a great opportunity for children to meet those who protect us, and it is so fitting they are there for a July 4th celebration.
Next up was July 4th and we had several local festivities from which to choose. There were festivities in Harvard, Bolton, and Acton. We decided on the Lincoln parade, but that was kind of drizzly and we skipped it. Fortunately, the sun broke through the clouds in the afternoon and the Sudbury parade went off without a hitch. There were no photographers where I was (towards the end of the route), but there were plenty of photo opportunities. We met several interesting people, saw a wonderful parade complete with floats, bands, and the famous Klein Unicycle Family, and went home for hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.
Of course Independence Day is much more than going to parades, although that is a big part of it. It's part celebration. But also it's part reflection, or at least it should be. In Lincoln, they read the Declaration of Independence before their parade and I think that's a fine tradition. In Sudbury, former servicemen marched as well as Minutemen who all reminded us what many have sacrificed for our freedom.
In case you are wondering, the Declaration of Independence is indeed dated July 4, 1776. You can find all sorts of information at this link. I admit I cannot remember having fully read it until today. While reading this document, I was struck by a conflict. On the one hand I felt proud that our states have rights and we have freedom. On the other, I felt unsettled that the minimalist government envisioned by our forefathers has become an utter monstrosity. Of course the other conflict is that women and blacks were not counted as being "equal". Another is that all the signers from Massachusetts (John Adams, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Elbridge Gerry, and Robert Treat Paine) graduated from Harvard which is a bastion of liberalism.
Last night I attended my fifth or sixth Town Meeting and, like voting, it's a very humbling experience. Stow has an open Town Meeting, which means it's open to all voters. I grew up in a town that had representative Town Meeting, which meant that the town was too big to house all the voters who would want to come. While my middle school history teacher tried to explain what it was (he was a representative), I never understood it until I moved to Stow. It's a practice that dates back to colonial times and is somewhat unique to New England. We have a moderator who makes sure everything runs smoothly and it's quite official with the Town Clerk on stage, the Selectmen, Town Administrator, and Finance Committee seated at the front and we methodically plod through the Warrant which specifies each and every piece of spending for the following year's budget.
If you want to participate in how your town is run, move to a town like Stow that has such a form of self government. You get to decide how much each town employee gets paid, whether the fire department will get that shiny new fire truck, and all kinds of other issues that may seem mundane to most, but are really quite interesting. Over the years we have had contentious debates on big projects like whether to fund a new school or buy land for playing fields and little things like whether to officially recognize the name of a road. But the great thing about Town Meeting is that anyone can discuss any of the items on the warrant. You can ask Why does this person get paid this much?" or "Why doesn't the police department buy a hybrid vehicle?" (a perennial favorite). If you want, you can feel free to vote against every spending article if you want and have the satisfaction of knowing you did so. And unlike large elections that don't turn on a single vote, often Town Meeting votes are quite close. In Town Meeting your vote certainly counts! Especially if there is an issue that divides the town.
Unfortunately, last night we learned that our Town Moderator, Ed Newman, is suffering a serious illness. Gary Horowitz (pictured), Deputy Moderator, ran the show and broke the news to everyone in attendance at the beginning. He read an optimistic letter from Newman who vowed to preside over next year's gala. Town Meeting, while it has its moments, is certainly far from boring. During votes or down times various people "entertain"–this year there were presentations on the upcoming 325th Anniversary celebration known as Springfest as well as an update on our elementary school building effort. Plus, you get to talk to lots of people you don't usually get a chance to talk to. Apparently, though, not everyone appreciates the power they have at Town Meeting or appreciates the entertainment. Attendance last night was 211 and there are 4464 registered voters; a rate of a little less than 5 percent.