Sunday, June 10, 2007

Uncharted territory at that.

Darn! I grudgingly have to award Larry Jackson (those damn movie producers) the premiere line in Nick Grabbe’s Front-page Gazette article ‘Activism goes with Territory’.

Said the sagacious former Hollywood Honcho: “The community seems to go to great lengths to not do or say anything that will offend anybody—unless that person is a Republican.”

I would have used “Conservative” rather than “Republican,” although most folks—especially in Amherst—think they are interchangeable. If I ever switched to Republican, however, my staunch Irish-Catholic mother would broadcast a banshee wail from beyond the grave.

I’m just happy the headline editor didn’t steal the name of my blog, although Regional school committee member Michael Hussin whines about the often-used phrase (usually accompanied by a rolling of the eyes) “Only in Amherst.”

But then, Mr. Hussin was a BIG supporter of the school allowing ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and was in fact the only Committee member who spoke publicly in favor of it.

And Mr. Hussin also acted as the Regional School Committee’s (toothless) attack dog, assailing the Pioneer Valley Chinese Charter Immersion School, the only proposal of ten to receive a Department of Education charter this year.

Fortunately Hussin shoots from the hip; and he’s a lousy shot.

I’m sure somebody will accuse me of racism for stating Amherst “takes minority opinions a little too seriously.” Mr. Grabbe left out my illustration: The ‘West Side Story’ fiasco happened because of the actions of ONE 17-year-old Puerto Rican girl who collected 288 signatures (out of 1,600) on a petition circulated at the High School decrying the play as “racist”.

About a year earlier another Senior (white male, so nobody took it seriously) collected 300 signatures on a petition demanding the right to leave school premises during the day so students could smoke, presumably cigarettes. So much for the judgment of High School kids signing petitions.

In a 4-1 closed door School Committee meeting in 1948 my mom (back when her maiden name was Connors) was fired from her job at the Amity Street School where she taught for two years resulting in a firestorm (even covered by the Boston papers) with mobs of concerned citizens attending School Committee meetings and writing Letters To The Editor to voice their outrage at her dismissal.

Nobody raised the issue of her Irish heritage, but many folks thought it had a lot to do with the firing.

Kevin Joy, who revived the July 4’th Parade in 2002, and I hosted an overnight Irish Wake on the town common with a replica of the Twin Towers on the eve of First Anniversary of 9/11, a woman later complained to the Bulletin: “Irish storytellers tales are compilations of the vernacular of the tragic. This keeps the tap flowing and the bottle caps flying.”

As a teenager Emily Dickinson whimsically wrote to her brother requesting he come home and deal with all the Irish that had washed ashore and flowed inland to Amherst (for work on the railroad) suggesting, “To kill some—there are so many now, there is no room for the Americans.”

Forty years later, after retreating into a literary world where the Irish exclusively and faithfully served her, Miss Emily requested in writing a simple funeral with six Irish pallbearers and my great, great Grandfather Tom Kelley—even though he had only one arm—acting as the Chief pallbearer.

Recently the Select Board voted unanimously to fly the Rainbow Flag in front of Town Hall for a week to commemorate the Third Anniversary of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage. Only moments later, they unanimously took “no position” on my request to fly 29 commemorative flags in the downtown to mourn 9/11.

And earlier this week Town Meeting resoundingly defeated my Special Town Meeting Warrant Article (requested by 200 Amherst taxpayers) to reissue a Request For Proposals to privatize the always ailing Cherry Hill Golf Course.

Last year practically the identical article proposed by Irv Rhodes (and only requiring ten Amherst taxpayers signatures) passed Town Meeting by a vote of 72-62. Irv Rhodes is black.

As Stephanie would say, Hmmmm.


Tommy said...

Good post. By the way, I overheard in a coffee shop yesterday a man say, "An awful right-winger named Larry Kelly prevents us from excercising out free speech rights at the parade." I was tempted to butt in and ask what they were talking about, but thought it would be rude. They had anti-war buttons on their knapsacks.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Tommy,

Yeah, that will be another "only in Amherst" moment coming up very soon.

The FEDERAL Supreme Court decided in 1995 (9-0 no less) in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade case (overruling a Massachusetts lower court) that a PRIVATE organization has the right to reject parade participants even if the parade occurs in the public way.

Unfortunately, the parade committee rejected gay Irish from marching (and honestly, if it were up to me, I would have let them march--especially if they bought me a beer).

One of the Judges actually made the comparison: If the NAACP had a parade, do you think they’d want the KKK in?” he asked.

A Supreme Court decision back in the 1970’s also declared it perfectly legal for a protestor to wear a coat emblazoned with “Fuck the Draft!” into a California courthouse. Yikes!

So the short answer is, if the PUBLIC town of Amherst hosted the 7/4 Parade (which they have not done since 1972, when my cousin Sheriff Bob Garvey led the procession. His wife Jane, admirable lead the FAA on that awful, awful morning of 9/11) then the KKK would have to be allowed to march with signs saying, “Fuck _iggers”, “Death to _aggots”, or “Nuke Israel.” I kid you not.

Iraq is the issue du jour, and anti-war types want to march with purely political signs decrying the war, before the thousands of spectators we attract for other reasons entirely (on our dime). We simply wish to have an old-fashioned Rockwellian birthday celebration for the greatest nation on the planet, even with all her warts.

Our target audience is really children; and they don’t comprehend politics. They want to see fire trucks, police cars, floats and that ultimate symbol of freedom: the American flag.

Gavin Andresen said...

So the fourth of July parade in Amherst will be a privately-organized parade, celebrating a publich holiday, going down public streets, with public safety vehicles (fire trucks, police cars...) ??driven by public employees?? (in their spare time, I assume-- they don't get overtime for riding in the parade, do they) ?

Wow. Seems to me there's lots of room for reasonable people to disagree here on what should or shouldn't be allowed; whether there are free speech issues, or respect-for-the-country issues, or whatever. You're braver than I for wading in to this particular swamp.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, Gavin I can honestly say that even the Smoking Ban in Bars battle is/was far more preferable than this.

On the one hand, I'm an undying devotee of the First Amendment but then on the other hand I feel there is a time and a place for everything and occasionally you need to shut the Hell up about politics (can you believe I just said that?).

I don’t like that whacko church group protesting at the funerals of war dead in Iraq claiming that gay rights had something to do with their deaths; and I don’t like anti-abortion protesters (shooting doctors of course) harassing women who wish to have control over their own bodies.

Or see, for instance, the Letter in this week's Amherst Bulletin from a veteran lamenting Select Board Chair Gerry Weiss giving an anti-war speech during the town's Memorial Day observance.

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