Monday, July 27, 2009

The Streets of Northampton

The first foray into a public venue that is not already political, and the sidewalk sale in Northampton does just fine. A warm, sunny day, the sidewalks are full. It seemed like it would be a good idea to find out who is from my district, so I approached folks by asking if they were from Northampton or Hadley. It shouldn't have surprised my that 9 in 10 were not. There were a large percentage from Connecticut, and NY, with a smattering from Florida as well as a Hawaiian.

I expected to get assaulted by the locals, as Northampton is a very Democratic town, but only one of the natives absolutely refused to even look at a Republican. He needs a sense of humor.

People were very interested in hearing ideas about health care reform: the Congressional process appears very chaotic to them (which, of course, it actually is), and though they know that what we now have has got to change, they are very worried that something quite bad is going to come out of Washington (which is certainly possible). They were very willing to listen and mix it up about healthcare, and were quite pleasant to meet. Yes, it was an enjoyable afternoon.

Having one of their local physicians running for congress is clearly a curiosity.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

California Dreaming

We've just returned from a family event in LA. As with many families, we've been close for my entire life, and they are very curious about my running for Congress, yet it makes so much sense. My parents, the patriarch and matriarch of this clan are both gone, but were old time Roosevelt Democrats. Almost all of their offspring turned out to be small government Republicans. My nephew's wife at age 8 immigrated with her parents from the Soviet Union to escape the oppression of the Communists, and they are very attuned to government intrusion on liberties. They are aghast at what they see coming from Washington.

Our cab driver back to the airport immigrated from Ghana twenty years ago, and is proud of being a citizen. He has a B.A. in business, but is happy to be an American cabbie. He is very angry about illegal immigration, as he came legally. He can't understand how the U.S. tolerates immigrants who refuse to speak English, and is convinced that California's budget crisis is caused by taxpayer support of services to illegal immigrants.

I don't engage in an argument with him, but we can't forget that just over 100 years ago there was a wave of immigration into the US that brought odd looking people with their foreign languages and behaviors from countries like Italy, Ireland, Poland and Greece. In their neighborhoods, few of the signs were in English and neither were the spoken words. They weren't welcomed then, but their descendants are now our teachers, politicians, and scientists.

It is our nation's right and duty to secure our borders, but we must remember our history. We have no need to be afraid of immigrants. These newcomers are intensely dedicated to and very protective of their freedom and self determination. That's why so many came here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

From Out Of Nowhere

July 4, 2009: Tea Party Demonstration in Boston.

I'm here to work the crowd. My task is to get known, get the word out that there is some one who will speak differently to the common assumptions of Massachusetts politics. This is a disorienting time, as so much has seemed to go wrong so quickly, and it appears so obvious that what is happening at the federal level is compounding the damage with a severity that is scary.

There are only a few familiar faces in the crowd, but I have to get by any hesitation and jump in as I'm here to do a job. I have a responsibility to my country to do what ever I can to stop the catastrophe unfolding in Washington.

The trick is to intrude on people without being obnoxious, but it is a political rally of people who are oriented in my direction, and so this proves to be easy. My wife Mary Lou is with me, equally as committed as I, and she is part of these conversations. One of the problems is identifying who is part of the rally, and who may be spectators or passersby, but the signs, flags, and buttons are reliable giveaways. Quickly, I settle on the technique of asking if the person or group is from Massachusetts, and if they are, telling them that I'm running for Congress and that I'm out to stop the craziness of what is now our government. These folks understand what I'm trying to do. They also are angry at the enormous power grab in Washington, the erosion of freedoms, the criminal negligence in the deficit. Most of those I meet are not from my congressional district, and often they try to return my card. I tell them to keep it: if their congressman does not have an opponent in 2010, then they can support me with contributions as at least one person trying to make a change in Congress.

Another problem is trying to remember who I have already accosted and who I haven't. Mary Lou is a little better than I am, but not by much. The people in the crowd keep moving around, which certainly doesn't help.

There are a lot of people here who have come down from New Hampshire: good for them, live free or die.

There is passion at this rally, but people have come with some very different nuances to their agendas. There is a contingency of Ayn Rand adherents, who seem mostly college age or recent graduates. It is a useful coincidence that I'm in the middle of reading Atlas Shrugged. There are Ron Paul supporters, pushing for his bill to audit the federal reserve. There are states rights advocates and those who are agitating to stop the onslaught of the federal government on business. Cap and trade is a major topic, as is fear of what terrible things the government may do if it comes to control our health care.

The single best moment Mary Lou and I have the entire day is when we approach two middle aged women, who soon inform us that they were immigrants from Peru, but are now Americans. They are at the rally because they are angry: they have come to this country to be free and to benefit from the fruits of their work, and now the government is taking their country away from them.

It is a beautiful, sunny, and cool day. Boston is beautiful. Both the Commons and Kennedy Park by the Long Wharf are full of people simply enjoying the weather. Are they worried about what is going on in Washington? I suspect many of them are, though most people keep it quiet, and few like political rallies. I'm counting on their paying attention.

I'm a doctor. I have been practising for 25 years in Northampton, MA and I love what I do. Today I'm working a crowd, meeting the voters, and hoping to pick up some contributions for an election almost a year and one half away.