Thursday, September 5, 2013

Defending The Indefensible


 One commemorative flag in downtown today (DPW forgot to take it down after Labor Day)

In her well timed guest column in the weekly Amherst Bulletin (the last one before 9/11), Amherst's top elected town official takes me to task for essentially being stubborn in the matter of not flying the 29 commemorative flags in the downtown every 9/11 as opposed to only once every five years.

When I was growing up in  Amherst, well before Ms. O'Keeffe was born, my Irish mother attributed that streak of stubbornness to my Irish heritage.

But I also learned early on from Martin Luther King, Jr. that it's okay for an individual (of any race, creed, color or national heritage) to break a law that their conscience tells them is "unjust."

And for Amherst to disallow flying the commemorative flags four-out-of-five 9/11s is simply wrong.  (Especially since we fly them every Memorial Day -- as we should!)

When I first started this campaign twelve years ago,  some critics considered the gesture a pro-Afghanistan war statement, and then a year or two later as a pro-Iraq war statement; and perhaps now some zealots would consider it a pro-Syria war statement.

It's not about politics, period.  It's about 3,000 Americans who got up on a gorgeous Tuesday morning to go about their daily routine, and over a two-hour period were ruthlessly murdered.

Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe also fails to mention that twice now in public meetings I have offered to abide by the will of the voters.

Yes, Town Meeting turned down my advisory request by a two-thirds vote and the Select Board by a 60/40 vote.  Interestingly Ms. O'Keeffe voted in the majority.

However back in May, 2007 after she voted YES as a Town Meeting member to flying the flags annually on 9/11 she wrote on her blog:

"I don’t need to have commemorative flags at half-staff downtown to mark my 9/11 remembrance, but it doesn’t hurt.

If you strip away all the overwrought Amherst stuff that becomes part and parcel of this article, it is really saying, “Should we fly flags downtown every year on 9/11?”

And to that, I say – “Sure! Why not?” To me, answers to “why not” were not compelling, but of course, I was in the minority." 

#####

"The People" have not been allowed to weigh in on this important matter, and the Select Board --who has twice now refused to place the item on the annual town election ballot -- seems to want to keep it that way.

What are they afraid of?

Citizen Wald is Select Board member Jim Wald

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

You want it on the ballot, you go and collect the signature necessary to put it there. If it shows up on the ballot I will vote no but I will be happy to sign the petition to get it on the ballot.

What are you afraid of?

Larry Kelley said...

Actually CAN, I handed in the signatures on Tuesday morning.

Anonymous said...

An importatant distinction that you don't make is that memorial day is a federal holiday, and 9/11 is not. Perhaps you should direct your attetion at codifying 9/11 as a holiday (natonal day of rememberence), that might be a more worthwhile movement to expend so much energy on than this small town politics. Go to the state house or DC.

Anonymous said...

You're a bully. It's a simple as that.

Town governments should (and thankfully ours DOES) resist the attempts of one individual to force actions that, frankly, no one cares that much about. How much time have you cost these poor people, anyway, with your self-righteous, full-of-indignation whining to get your way? Truly, this is little more than a childish reaction to being told "no." You simply cannot rest until you get your way, isn't that the case?

Sincerely,
Carol Anne Nimble

Larry Kelley said...

Yes Carol, if you can't call someone a "racist" then I guess you have to settle for "bully."

And yes, this is going to happen four out of five years for as long as I live unless the Select Board allows a vote of The People.

Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Larry, I fully support your endeavor.

Charge on, young man!

Sincerely,
Christopher A. Nonymish

Walter Graff said...

In the meantime in the other half of the state they are fighting to take the the words "Under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Anonymous said...

Hey Carol.

Just like gay marriage advocates. If it were put to the people it would get voted down almost everywhere.

Fly the flags you fucking idiots.

Anonymous said...

So if you have the signatures to put it on the ballot then why the continual ranting. Let the town vote and be done with it.

If the town votes no, one would hope that you would accept that vote and not harass the Select Board every year.

Anonymous said...

Larry: they're afraid people might mistake them for Americans.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:07

That is why civil rights should never be put to a vote. If it were, blacks would not be where they are today. The white majority would overwhelm them. Thankfully in the United States we do not put civil rights to a vote. That is one of the things the American flag stands for. Equality for ALL.

Larry Kelley said...

And how many black American died that day? How many Jews; how many Gays?

A lot of Irish among those 343 firefighters.

Anonymous said...

LK you so (self)
righteous

Larry Kelley said...

As the Battered Bastards of Bastogne would say, "Nuts!"

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, the Select Board is not afraid of you.

But, I suspect, a lot of people are. After all, you are the guy with the blowtorch blog and the willingness to call in the out-of-town media outlets to ridicule those who disagree with you.

I know that you desperately want to be seen as the underdog on this issue, because it fits the narrative you've written for yourself. But given your media resources and their past tendency to distort the facts to enhance the story at the expense of the people of the Town, you are far more of a bully than an underdog here. This is why so many people post anonymously when they disagree with you.

Yes, it is like Joseph McCarthy. We are either with you, or, if we disagree on any of the particulars, including how often the flags should fly, we are against you, less of a patriot than you.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

Nothing is more patriotic than the right to vote.

But tied with that is the right to petition our government for redress of grievances, or use of the First Amendment -- all of which you see see here daily on this "blowtorch blog".

Any guess what? People can vote at the ballot box ANONYMOUSLY.

Ms. O'Keeffe told me last week there was a "citizen petition path to the ballot." So be it.

Ball is back in her court.

Anonymous said...

What if "The People" vote no? Then will you stop?

BTW, when you put something in quotation marks, such as "The People" you are saying that they are not the people.

Larry Kelley said...

Twice now in less than a year I have publicly stated I would abide by a vote of "The People."

Unlike Cowardly Anon Nitwits, I stand behind my word with my name -- a family name that has been a part of this town for five generations.

Anonymous said...

Larry,
My response regarding putting civil rights to a vote had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. I was responding to the person who wants to put gay rights to a vote.

I am sure many gay as well as straight folks died that day and people of many colors and nationalities. I don't see this as a competition for how many of each category died. I am simply pointing out that civil rights on any day of the week, month, year, century should NEVER be put to a vote.

Larry Kelley said...

And most Americans would be astonished to learn the flying of commemorative American flags on 9/11 issue needs to be put to a vote.

Only in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

"my name -- a family name that has been a part of this town for five generations."

The WORST kind of resident is the one that thinks they are entitled a more prominent position because of their generational heritage. Yours is a vision of what once was, not what it should become. Where I come from, we called these people townies and everyone agreed they really should get a life.

No one cares about you, Larry! They use this blog as a platform for ideas, it's not about you.

Sincerely,
Charlie Allen Nitzwhit

Dr. Ed said...

Perhaps you should direct your attetion at codifying 9/11 as a holiday (natonal day of rememberence), that might be a more worthwhile movement to expend so much energy on than this small town politics.

I'm reminded of how Dr. King's Birthday became a holiday -- largely via economic pressure (and sometimes worse) being placed on those who didn't observe it as such.

Other than engaging in the excesses -- which shouldn't have been tolerated by the King Holiday supporters -- that is exactly what Larry is doing here.

Dr. Ed said...

Town governments should (and thankfully ours DOES) resist the attempts of one individual to force actions that, frankly, no one cares that much about.

Carol, are you aware of the fact that Title IX was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as an attempt to defeat it?

The belief was that "no one cares that much about" the bra-burning feminists and hence this would make the entire act so asinine that no one could vote for it.

Carol -- I suspect you know what Title IX is, no?

And hence this is ironic, is it not?

Dr. Ed said...

I will say again what I said on 9-10-01 -- in flying the flags, Amherst says that it truly is a country open to all, including those of us who don't hate our country.

It seems that there are fewer leaflets plastered to the lightpoles than there were back then -- in all ways, our communication is becoming more electronic -- but I was struck by how a diversity of left-wing flies led up to the American flag flying atop -- and never understood why no one else saw that.

Anonymous said...

"September 5, 2013 at 11:05 AM
Anonymous said...

An importatant distinction that you don't make is that memorial day is a federal holiday, and 9/11 is not. Perhaps you should direct your attetion at codifying 9/11 as a holiday (natonal day of rememberence)..."

Ever heard of Patriot Day (not to be confused with Patriot's Day) where it is an offical, national, day of remembrance signed into law by GW Bush? But I'll bet that last part is a big reason Amherst Statists are so ungroovy about this whole issue.

~Bill Redder

Anonymous said...

Larry,
What does "abide by the decision" mean? Is it that you won't continue to appear before the select board every year to petition them to change the policy, or that you won't continue to berate and belittle the town in every news outlet available to you regarding the state of the policy? Or (hopefully), might it be both?

Anonymous said...

"petition our government for redress of grievances"

Yes, and sometimes the answer is no. It's not get whatever you want.

Larry Kelley said...

And next year the board will have a different make up. But the two who voted to support the flying of the flags EVERY year will still be there.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see 9/11 become a national (or even local) day of remembrance for first responders. I'd be happy to see the flags wave in honor of that purpose. Otherwise it seems to be little more than a reactive gesture of pure nationalism.

Anonymous said...

Larry:

never quit. Not that you would. It is important to remind everyone. Flying the flags, to me, seems very appropriate.

David Farnham

Larry Kelley said...

Thanks David,

With my dying breath!

Anonymous said...

Larry:

you much more polite than I would be to some of the idiotic comments that some people make on this blog. what jerks.
David Farnham

Larry Kelley said...

Yet they still acuse me of beng a "bully."

Anonymous said...

you are not a Bully. you are a person who pursues what he is passionate about. But at the end of the day, if you are on the wrong side of the argument,you will be a sportsman, and shake hands. good night.

david farnham

Anonymous said...

Would this even be an issue in just about any other town in America. Oh, Amherst, you liberal, racial diverse, over educated mecca of America.

Anonymous said...

I just read Stephanie O'Keaffe's letter in the Bulletin. While I would like to see the flags fly every 9/11, I find her position to be reasonable and I think this is not being reflected in your vitriolic blog posts.

Larry Kelley said...

I can tell you read it very closely, especially by the way you spell her surname.

Walter Graff said...

She says:

"We lament that in Washington, politics is all about ideological absolutism and unwillingness to give an inch."

That's how Amherst is run too.

Anonymous said...

I think the opposite. Stephanie's letter shows that an accommodation for various view points was already made in coming up with the current policy.

Larry Kelley said...

So we should "accommodate" on gay marriage and only allow one-in-five couples to marry?

Anonymous said...

Larry your example is a very bad one. Gay couples have a LEGAL right to marry. It is unconstitutional to say they cannot get married. There is nothing unconstitutional about the select board deciding when the flags should fly on the town poles.

What an absurd comparison you made. Not surprising though. You have made many absurd, non-sequitorish comparisons in the past.

You want to fly the flag on 9/11 in remembrance go for it. The town has made a compromise - the very nature of compromise usually has as its outcome that no one is entirely happy because they don't get everything they want. But both sides learn to live with it because they are mature adults. Only children fail to see the wisdom in compromise.

Larry Kelley said...

You don't compromise on matters of respect. Well, maybe CANs do

Anonymous said...

So your position is that you support democracy as long as it gives you what you want?

Larry Kelley said...

Actually I'm asking for "democracy" to be allowed to take its course.

As in twice now I asked the Select Board to put it on the ballot so "The People" could vote on it. They refused. Twice.

Now I've handed in a citizens petition that requests they put it on the ballot.

But I think I know how you will vote when the time comes. CAN.

Anonymous said...

You sure know how to win friends. I will vote FOR it none the less.

Anonymous said...

Your idea of respect is not necessarily everyone's way of showing respect.

Larry Kelley said...

Then put it to a vote and find out.

Anonymous said...

I will be first in line to vote no.

Larry Kelley said...

Why?

Ironically enough I actually think Stephanie O'Keeffe, in the privacy of the voting booth, will vote "yes".

Anonymous said...

Uh, Larry, I thought it was being put to a vote. Didn't you say you handed in enough signatures to get it on the ballot?

Larry Kelley said...

I did. But it still needs Select Board approval.

If Town Meeting six years ago had approved my petition instead of defeating it by two thirds it would still have required Select Board approval to get on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

Defeated by two thirds? You were not even close.

Larry Kelley said...

Yes. Up to that moment I had probably given over 1,000 speeches/presentations on the floor of Amherst Town Meeting.

And I may live to give 1,000 more.

But I don't think I will ever be able to give a better one than I did that night, so you certainly can't blame my "presentation."

Stunningly, even Stephanie O'Keeffe wrote:

"Petitioner Larry Kelley made – let’s face it – a stunningly thoughtful and moderate presentation about the first and nearly-final casualties of September 11th, and how they were both gay men, and how broad the diversity was of innocent lives lost on that day. He said that that is what the flag stands for – not militarism or the war in Iraq, but the people of the U.S. He noted the contrast of the Select Board’s unanimous vote to fly the rainbow flag for the anniversary of the gay marriage decision, and how they then unanimously voted to take no position on this proposal to fly the commemorative flags at half-staff every 9/11, and said that the two people he had previously referenced might have found that ironic."

Joseph Moroco said...

Flying the flag is not a bad thing. If Mr. Kelley can get enough support, it does not make him a bully or a racist, but an "activist."

I'm just glad he is pushing the war in Syria. Finally, one he doesn't love.

Anonymous said...

Larry is not a bully because he wants some flags to fly. He is a bully because of the way he treats folks here who disagree with him. I don't think anyone has ever called him a racist though. He is an equal opportunity bully.

Larry Kelley said...

Gee, thanks (I think).

Anonymous said...

larry:

fly the flags anyways. get a crew and hold the flags at the corners in town. nothing wrong with that.

D.farnham