I’d like to thank all of you who took the time to read my 6-part blog/story A Casino Carol.
It was a lot of fun to write - not to mention interesting. I attempted to imagine the motivations of others, and what it would really be like living with all those "impacts" we keep hearing about - those potential consequences of casino gambling in Massachusetts and what they could mean for our little corner of the Commonwealth.
And there are so many potential consequences… In the last chapter of the story I tried to envision our world, based on the real-life impacts I’ve learned about in my research, and I didn’t even have time to cover them all.
In addition to my research, some of the scenes in the story were also based on personal experience. When Cratchit gets a phone call while at the gaming table from his son, I was essentially retelling a story a friend had recently shared with me. He’d been at a casino in Canada, and watched as a gambler took several phone calls from his child, and each time he would lie into the phone, telling the child he was at work and would be home soon. Needless to say, he wasn’t home anytime soon. How many times have we read about the effect of compulsive gambling? How many times have we brushed it off? The fact is - it's real. And real people suffer. Children suffer. Families suffer.
Also sadly true-to-life, is the fact that many people in and around Middleboro are already familiar with the reality of gambling related suicide. After attending a funeral at the Nemasket cemetery, I walked over to the grave of a high-school classmate who’d fallen victim to gambling addiction and killed himself just a few years ago. As I stood beside his grave, I realized with no small amount of revulsion that a future high-rise Middleboro casino would loom ominously over it. My research has already confirmed that the close proximity of a casino will indeed loom ominously over the lives of many, many local victims yet-to-come, along with their friends, families and their entire communities.
The truth, I realized, the longer I wrote, was that if casinos come to Massachusetts, the only fiction in a story like A Casino Carol will be the ghosts.
Yet another true-to-life tale I incorporated into the story - in chapter 1, when Flynn drives up alongside the anti-casino protestors, and yells out something about 'a casino not coming for 11 years' – in fact, I was out one afternoon collecting signatures on a petition with some fellow CasinoFacts members, when Flynn did this very same (very odd) thing. And, just like in the story, I asked him to step out and talk to us. But apparently Mr. Flynn doesn’t feel the need to speak to his constituents - even the ones concerned enough to stand in the hot sun holding signs and collecting signatures - with people lining up to sign them!
Another time, I witnessed Flynn's town car come to a stop out in front of my house - where he was apparently contemplating my No Casino sign. I was there, in the front yard – but once again, apparently not important enough to warrant Flynn's interest. You know the reason I have such a big sign? Because people like Flynn aren't listening. I write him letters, he never writes back. I hold a sign - he ignores it. I help collect 600 signatures in a few hours in his own home town - and he could care less. The quality of life in the region he represents is put up on the auction block - and he stages a love-in for the bidders at the State House.
So, as you can see, Flynn really did make for a perfect Scrooge!
But he wasn't the only candiate unwittingly auditioning for the role of Scrooge. One of the biggest disappointments to me, during this entire conflict, has been the extent to which some of our elected officials will turn a deaf ear to the very folks who voted them into office, or how easily they'll disregard the precious character and quality of life of the same places they are elected to represent. From our governor, who feigned impartiality all summer, even while his mind was clearly floating in as much Kool-aid as Flynn’s, to Senator Pacheco with his singular focus on the dog track and his bizarre multi-tiered fall-back on mitigation, to the quick-gaveling, budget flubbing Boards of Selectmen in Middleboro and Bridgewater.
So, thank goodness for those who've reaffirmed my faith in government - like the Selectmen in towns like Lakeville, Berkley, Carver, Halifax, Plympton, Kingston, Wareham and Rochester. And thank goodness for the Regional Task Force and the intelligent conversation it is having about potential casino impacts. And thank goodness for Rep. Tom Calter, who proved that even a made-up mind could be opened with enough evidence. Mr. Calter sited receiving thousands of letters of opposition. Good work, people!
As we segue into the new year, and into the next chapter of the casino debate, let’s not let up on the letters and the phone calls to our elected officials. Because of our involvement in this issue, we know a lot about it - more than some newspaper reporters care to write about. So keep sending those informative editorials to the papers. But, most importantly, stay involved. You've been the real three ghosts in this casino story all year long. You are the spirit, the guiding light, and the voice of this fight. And the fact that there even is an active debate going on means that you’ve made a difference.
And that makes it a truly Happy New Year!