Thursday, August 30, 2007

This Dog and Pony Show

It was standing room only.

I was sure I’d gotten there early enough, but still… not a seat in the house. I hoped it wouldn’t be a long night.

Then, I noticed some ladies trying to get my attention. Someone had vacated a seat in the middle of their row, and they were offering it to me


It was only May, but the air in the auditorium was as stifling and uncomfortable as any evening in August. Still, the whole room buzzed with excitement. Outside, cars were parked along both sides of the long driveway. Police seemed everywhere directing traffic, people and reporters. News vans from all the stations, with their towering satellite uplinks, filled the lot. Protestors held signs as we walked to the building. People were being interviewed by guys I’d only seen on TV. At the door to the Nichols School, someone was handing out little colored feathers.

No thanks.

I looked around the auditorium for some familiar faces from the first selectman's meeting about the casino, but couldn’t find any. The ladies beside me were wearing feathers. I would later discover that they, and pretty much everyone else filling up the first 20 rows, were from Oak Point. Being from Bridgewater, I didn’t yet know what Oak Point was, or that it stirred up strong emotions among the folks in Middleboro. I also didn't realize that they'd all been fed a free dinner and shipped by bus to the meeting. It was only May, and I still had a lot to learn about local politics.

Someone got up from the chair next to me and gave it to an elderly gentleman. The Oak Point lady sitting next to me leaned in and whispered that he was a 'real' Wampanoag. He and I smiled politely at each other. A photographer from the Globe walked over, took some pictures of him, and asked his name.

The usual suspects were up on stage – the Middleboro selectmen (I still didn’t know all their names), their tribal law attorney, Jon Whitten, a few others I didn’t recognize – and a beefy guy in his fifties with his long white hair tied into a ponytail. He was confident, smiling, shaking hands. No need for an introduction. Obviously this was the Chief of the Mashpee Wampanoags.

The man we were all here to see. And hear.

And, I’m not sure what I’d been expecting, but it wasn’t him.

He gave a little talk about his people, about how he wanted to be a good neighbor to the people of Middleboro. That’s nice. But what about Bridgewater? We’re closer than most of Middleboro. He spoke of being ‘a steward of the land’, which didn’t sit right with me either. Traffic? Pollution? Swamp draining? Forty story mega towers? Multi-acre asphalt parking lots? This was stewardship?

People, including some I recognized, got up to the microphone and asked questions. But, if you didn’t want the casino, Mr. Marshall’s responses were dismissive. Or worse - you were a racist. If you had concerns, he made promises. He’d personally write you a check if your business suffered because of his. He’d cover you if your property values sagged. He’d build green, hire union, take care of everybody, everything. And if Middleboro didn't want them, they wouldn't come. And you could believe him, because he was a man of his word.

Someone asked about New Bedford. Wasn’t the Tribe also looking at New Bedford? Sure they were! They haven’t ruled anything out. They might use the land in Middleboro for housing or a heritage museum.

That’s when the Wampanoag man sitting next to me laughed. And under his breath, where I could still clearly hear it, he said, “They're not going to New Bedford.”

No, they weren’t, were they. Glenn Marshall was lying.

As the night and the questions, lies and promises wore on, Mr. Marshall started to get tired. Maybe he ate too much at Dave's diner earlier that evening. He stood up and indicated the auditorium with a wave of his hand “… this dog and pony show…”

Ut-oh! He knew he’d just screwed up. He tried to backtrack. But it didn’t matter. Few people in the auditorium realized they’d just been dissed by the new king of Middleboro.

But I never forgot it. I never forgot his staggering confidence, his thinly concealed disdain or his shallow promises. How he acted as if he'd just signed the purchase and sale agreement on the entire town of Middleboro.

A few months later, in a room at the Halifax town hall, a local resident who happened to work in Middleboro, and who’d met Marshall for himself, stood up and spoke glowingly of him... his impressive war record, how he was so down to earth. Believable. We’d be impressed, he insisted, if we ever met the guy ourselves.

A lot of other people, just like this man from Halifax, truly believed in Glenn Marshall. And they didn’t meet the rest of the Tribe that night on the stage at the Nichols school – they met Marshall.

The final agreement mentions the term ‘good faith’ numerous times. Exactly what ‘good faith’ would that be? The same ‘good faith’ that members of congress were asked to accept when Marshall blatantly lied to them? There are six signatures at the bottom of the agreement signed at the July 28th Town Meeting. Five Middleboro selectman – and just one Wampanoag. The one so many people beleived in.

This alone should negate the agreement.

I’m not sure why so many people got sucked in by Marshall. Was it admiration or intimidation? Or both? What made Adam Bond run from the room like the Cowardly Lion when the Great and Powerful Glenn Marshall turned down his first agreement - claiming it threatened his Tribe's hard-fought sovereignty? What made the next agreement force Bond and every subsequent selectmen ‘till the end of time speak only flowers and sunshine should talk ever turn to a casino - essentially forfeiting the town’s own 338 year sovereignty – and mostly likely, somewhere down the road, compelling the town to tell it’s own lies.

Marshall is fond of the analogy of the King and the Goat. He claims, with a significant deficit of humility, that he’s never been the goat, always the King. And all summer long it’s been just one big dog and pony show, staring Glenn Marshall, as the new king of Middleboro...

...And, with Jack Abramoff in his wallet, and Congress, the BIA, the Governor, State Legislature and the town of Middleboro in his hip pocket, I’m sure he still believes he's the future king of the world.


Anonymous said...

In hindsight, there were those who called him fraud, discredited his revisionist history (of the Mashpee in Middleboro), insisted that his vague promises be commited to writing from the beginning.
Our willingness as a society to accept propaganda and promises, scripted performances that defy logic or research, speaks poorly of our herding mentality.
Shall we learn from this recent episode?
That the Casino Investors were fully aware of the lies and the fraud should define our understanding.

Anonymous said...

I watched as Middleboro residents who never paid attention to town governance, attending town meetings or even voted for that matter, were handing out FEATHERS!Aren't they the same faces I see fighting the Recall and proclaiming what wonderful leaders we have? Do I see Bill Marzelli who in his infinite wisdom at the Selectmen's meeting said we should 'bond' to cover the deficit until the casino arrives, defending the status quo?
So, that's how many millions?
Fuzzy math? Can't anyone in this town add?