Barbara looked nervous.
She was smiling and laughing but, even though I don’t know her very well, she still seemed a little nervous to me. Well, I guess that made two of us.
It was the night of the Bureau of Indian Affairs hearings and Barbara was sitting behind me - which I thought was odd since I would have expected her to be sitting on the other side of the room with the rest of the people supporting the casino project.
There we were, divided up like families at a wedding – or a murder trial.
Barbara and I haven’t always seen eye to eye on things. She was one of the Gambling Casino Impact Study Committee formed by the Middleboro Board of Selectmen, prior to them deciding that they really didn’t care about any gambling casino impacts.
After the No-Impact Committee gave their unanimous stamp of approval on the project, were thanked for their efforts, and marched off into the sunset - somehow they managed a rebirth, augmented with a few new members, as the Casino Resort Advisory Committee (or CRAC).
So, I wasn't expecting anything earth shattering from Barbara’s statement that evening, but then something interesting happened.
The first thing she wanted the BIA to know was that she was an environmental consultant, and that she’d served on Middleboro’s conservation commission. And then, she said that she didn’t think a casino was right for the Precinct Street property! In fact, she didn’t think it would be right for any development!!
Furthermore she hoped that going forward, the EIS process would be a responsible one. And that’s when I noticed she was having trouble. Barbara would never strike anyone as a weak person, but at the moment she seemed to be struggling to get the words out. Tortured, almost.
That's when she dropped the pretense. Where were the real plans, she asked? All that had been provided - and only a few days prior to the hearing at that - was something that looked like ‘the Sunday funnies”. And she wanted to know how something 2 dimensional and with no detail could possibly elicit any concrete comprehensive comments. Obviously, the process was moving too rapidly.
In other words, according to this environmental consultant and former member of the conservation commission - is anyone actually serious about the environmental impacts of this monstrosity on an extremely sensitive piece of wetland?
Her brief statement ended with resounding and unexpected applause – from every side of the room. And when she sat back down, she didn’t look nervous anymore. Just happy and relieved to have been able to finally tell it like it really is.
I know this couldn’t have been easy for Barbara. She was putting herself on the line in a town that she loves - and served - by not toeing the line of required support for the project demanded by the Intergovernmental Agreement, and undoubtedly expected from her committee chairman, the ever enthusiastic Brian Giovanonni, badly feigning nonchalance on the other side of the room.
I turned and caught her eye. “Thank you,” I said.
Barbara smiled, and nodded.
Friends, as many of you know, I've often used the Wizard of Oz analogy on this blog to describe having found myself swept into a strange situation, of traveling down new roads, of finding friends along the way, and of sometimes becoming the target of wicked witches, flying monkeys and angry fruit-lobbing apple trees.
But along this journey, which has lasted now for a year, I’ve been guided by a pair of symbolic ruby slippers I’ve kept tight on my feet. Those slippers have always lead me to do my best to tell the truth, to do the right thing, to be brave, to be strong, and to hope that eventually, by staying on this course, that they’ll bring me back home.
Getting swept off course is easy. Finding the right road again - especially when all the signs are pointing you in the opposite direction - that's the hard part.
Therefore, Barbara, for meritorious conduct, extraordinary valor, and conspicuous bravery against Wicked Witches, poppies, and the Status Quo, I award you the Order of the Red Shoes. You are now a member of the Legion of Courage.