"WOULDN'T IT BE NICE?"
The mayor of Lawrence, MA, Dan Rivera (D) is a very impressive politician, particularly given his dexterity with English and Spanish. He recently stepped up and interpreted the comments of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) - who has also done a very impressive job during a recent catastrophe in this town of Lawrence - on a number of occasions to let his community know the message the governor was sending. For anyone outside New England: some 70 residences, apparently fueled by over-pressurized natural gas lines, either caught fire or exploded in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, MA, yesterday.
There is one recorded fatality, a number of injured and countless displaced from their homes. To his credit, the Governor has handled this emergency with both concern and aplomb. It's obvious he wants to get to the bottom of this, which I am sure all the victims want as well.
This guy from Lawrence: Mayor Rivera, he's been the all-star, though. He moves with dexterity between languages which I am sure ingratiates him with his constituency and I am sure is why the Governor patted him on the shoulder and said, "Go ahead." when he stepped in to translate Baker's remarks to his community that they couldn't go back to their homes last night.
This was one of those moments that make me most proud of being from Massachusetts.
Rivera made a point of inviting anyone who needed housing to seek he and his office out, a commonplace move in an emergency setting, but he then vehemently defended that there had not been any looting in his town and that there wouldn't be any when the media suggested it.
He was unyielding in defending his city. Not solely based on a strong police presence but because of an increased civic pride, he said. Rivera has a political future. Strong presence in the midst of an emergency. Very impressive.
Equally impressive was the absolute bipartisan support from Governor Charlie Baker. I have seen plenty of governors from my beloved Bay State commandeer an emergency. From DeVal Patrick's successful direction of the state following the Marathon Bombing to Mitt Romney's raising of gun license fees that gained the state close to $100 million dollars. Hell, I saw a Republican called Bill Weld fly the state house flag at half-staff when Jerry Garcia died. Fuck, this is Massachusetts.
In the 70's during Watergate you could see bumper stickers on America's highways that proudly proclaimed, "Don't Blame Me... I'm From Massachusetts." They were a proud tout that we were the only state to give our electoral votes to Democratic contender, George McGovern, in the 1972 election in opposition to Richard Nixon. Only Massachusetts. Don’t blame us.
And, I grew up privileged to witness the enduring friendship and working relationship between my state's legendary Senator, Edward Kennedy (D) and his contemporary from Utah, Orrin Hatch (R). Hatch would say after Kennedy’s death, and a years-long politically adversarial friendship:
“We disagreed on nearly every issue, and continued to do so for all the years we served together in the Senate. But to our mutual surprise, during our service on the Senate Labor, Judiciary, and other committees, we soon realized that we could work well together. If the two of us—positioned as we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum—could find common ground, we had little trouble enlisting bipartisan support to pass critical legislation that benefited millions of Americans.”
What a utopian ideal. Working together. In government. To benefit the people who voted for you.
Watching my Republican governor, Charlie Baker, and the Democratic mayor of Lawrence, Dan Rivera, interact in the midst of this regional tragedy; all I thought was, “Jeez, you know if only the rest of the country would take a look.”
It shouldn’t take a gas leak that burns down 70 residences and sends thousands to sleep in high school gyms and YMCA’s to make us all realize we all love this thing we share called the United States. UNITED. Somewhere that has recently got lost.
I’m afraid that being confused or intimidated or maybe even scared by people who don’t look the same as us has divided us and torn at the “United” part. Damn, it’s the best part. “United” is what has gotten us this far. “United” has gotten these states through a whole lot, all over the world.
A tragedy in my home state demonstrated to me once again that the government works best when it works together, with no personal interests in mind but simply the needs of the citizens. Putting the partisanship down and hunkering down to get a little bit of shit done. Face to face and hand working with hand.
You remember those folks who pay taxes and vote for you? How about everybody puts special interests aside and makes their constituents their most special interest? The best for everyone? It frightens me to think it literally takes fire for us to get back to this place in our hearts. I still believe we’re a better species than that.
I now have Brian Wilson in my head, and that Beach Boys classic,
“Wouldn’t it be nice…?”
I know that is a naive dream but at least I saw a glimpse last night and tonight. I hope some of the rest of the country did, as well.
Be even better if Congress did too.