Friday, April 3, 2009

From a Distance

On Tuesday night I got home late. That morning I'd been down in DC and up on Capitol Hill after attending the 2009 Citizens Equal Rights Alliance conference. The next morning I headed out to Beacon Hill for the Casino Free Mass April Fool's Gold rally at the Statehouse.

It's been exhausting, but by gosh, it feels so good to be an activist!

Even now, as I continue to endure a whopper of an allergy attack from the residual pollen of a million gorgeous cherry blossoms, and my nicotine and Febreeze saturated room at the Clarion - I can honestly say it was well worth it. And, when the Benadryl finally wears off, I'll tell you all about the things I learned about Indian sovereignty, IGRA, grassroots, the IRA, and yes, even the Mashpee Wampanoags. But for now, I can tell you (again) that it ain't comin'.

At the conference, coast-to-coast communities from Plymouth, Massachusetts to Plymouth, California were represented. I witnessed for myself that CERA is comprised of incredibly smart, educated and passionate people who live and breath the spirit of the Constitution. They've armed themselves with the facts and with research and the truth. What started out as a fight for their quality of life turned, for them, into a call to help others.

I remember, way back when, hearing Dennis Whittlesey denounce their organization as "racist". Apprehension about being labeled as racists even prevented many in my own organization from embracing their help. But heck, that's what folks like Dennis count on.

In reality, CERA, like their slogan, "Many cultures, one law", is the definition of anti-racist. A panel of Indians even spoke at the conference. And let me tell you, it was very enlightening.

All I can say is, if someone is supporting inequality in this country, it's either from ignorance, fear, or to keep an unequal share of Federal dollars flowing into their pockets.

I was delighted to be part of the 'Middleboro' delegation to the conference - a delegation which proudly included a wonderful first-time speaker, as well as our amazingly inexhaustible EIS organizer. As always, it was invigorating to meet fellow activists who quickly become friends. I know I'm not alone in the sentiment that representing that amazing group of people from Southeast Massachusetts who refused to swallow a 'done deal' in 2007 - and who were recently rewarded with proof from the Supreme Court - was infinitely sweet.

Which is why the Dennis Whittlesey's of the world wanted Middleboro to dismiss CERA's advice. Because, my goodness, what if everyone back then had realized that we were just following a script investors and gaming lawyers had written for us? A script that made us do something stupid while thinking we were really being smart.


How many people accepted the inevitability of a casino simply because someone in authority told them it was true? Obviously, some of us looked into it from different directions and realized it wasn't. And if you'd have found CERA, they would have proved to you that it wasn't.

So, if you were one of the few who walked up a hill this week to raise your voice, or just to listen, you've made a difference. In fact, you're holding up the house.

For those of you who thought it all ended after the Middleboro Town Meeting (from Hell) on July 28th, 2007 - you're missing the point. That spot on the map with the big tents and the orange shirts provided concrete proof that our nation was being guided by a 'separate and unequal' philosophy. Many of us, for various reasons, accepted this. Others railed, and are still railing, against it. But even those folks who wanted a casino in Middleboro, those fellow Americans of ours, should have been repulsed and reviled by the actions of the past two years.

We can't be a united nation while divided into separate sovereignties, governed by a schizophrenic series of laws based on an archaic contrivance of guilt and presumed ethnicity. It doesn't work. In the 21st century our country has become a blended family. Our elected leader is of mixed-race heritage. Many cultures, one law. That's what works.

But the IRA sets us all upon an unbalanced national stage. The greatest benefactors of this unequal footing aren't Native Americans. They are profiteers who've learned to thrive on unintended pockets of persuasion and surreptitious loopholes created by a clash of legal inconsistencies.

In the end, some Americans end up with lawyers, investors, spokespeople and politicians defending fictitious and odious 'done deals'. Other Americans, those enrolled in Tribes or living on reservations end up disenfranchised, blackballed, shunned, extorted and worse. And it's all so that we won't put up a fight.

Yet, we forget that this nation was forged in the good fight, that it earned it's identity by refusing to be quiet and that it's always been at it's best when it asked questions, took a stand, and demanded accountability.

I suppose a lot of folks start out like me - proud to be an American but still asleep at the wheel of their own political involvement - until hit head-on by greed and rear-ended by ignorance. But finding yourself in that position doesn't mean you have to stay that way.

And that's CERA. Ordinary Americans, Indian and non-Indian who awoke one day to find their world upside down and a fire ignited in their conscience. They became an army of citizen soldiers, and, in the end, they'll celebrate the victories for which they paved the way. Because they had it right all along. Many cultures, one law.

The same goes for CasinoFreeMass. A rapidly growing grassroots movement, some of whose seeds were sown in a meeting room in the basement of the Middleboro library and fertilized by the endless manure of inevitability. At first, we worried about our own back yard. Now, we stand for everyone's back yard.

And so, while our leaders and neighbors and friends struggle with the vexing questions and seemingly insurmountable dilemmas of the day - a chosen few have worked unnoticed, with trowels and mortar, to reinforce that foundation on which we stand.

A foundation supported in the simple words repeated every morning by school children. Not a 'belief' - but an expectation that all of us are part of one nation, united and unbreakable, and that we live in a place where there is liberty and justice, not a handout or mitigation, for all.


Smoking Owl said...

What a wonderful inspiring post! The only thing missing as I read it was the strains of the Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in the background.

....His truth goes marching on!

Gladys Kravitz said...

Glory, glory Hallelujah, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Nice job, as always!

It was great to see you on those steps in Boston, tired, but present!

Our legislators are much like the uninformed in Middleboro who believed the myths of inevitability, accepted wild promises of revenue and are taking the lazy way out to solve problems they have ignored.

Nocasino said...

Thanks Gladys

Anonymous said...

seeking the truth ... hearing both sides to a story ... i found out, just like all else money corrupts everything ... casino's destroy communities-short term employment for endless misery ... casino's bring down the rest of the community after there built, people loose their jobs, homes, and life from this addiction ... gambling addiction is no different than alcohol and drug addiction ... an Indian Casino brought down my community ... all the welfare mothers spend all their welfare checks at the casino and their poor children are the ones to suffer ... this is aside from never being at home with their kids. Don't do it ... do not bring an Indian Casino into your community ... only a few will benefit at the expense of the many and you'll be forever sorry ... the casino owner's will become to wealthy and to powerful for the folks of the community to EVER have any say in their town again, EVER. Your signing your town over to the devil. You've been warned.

Anonymous said...

Great to see some familiar faces in the pic. at the statehouse! If I could have I would have. I appreciate your time and effort, and most of all your selflessness. How was the Whites' birthday cake? Did you go with the lemon?
Thanks again, Elvis

Jacquie said...

Amen Sister!

All I can say is it's a good thing that photo is from a distance...any closer and we'd scare off everyone!

Gladys Kravitz said...

Jacquie - it's not us who'd scare people off - it's the other side ;~)

Elvis, yup we went with the lemon. It was a big hit - thanks for the advice. BTW - great to see and hear from you again. There were a few others from home base at the rally as well. I'll make sure you know about the next one!

Anon. 8:94 - we all appreciate your candor and warnings. Thanks. I hope others will listen. Unfortunately, the town already pulled the handle on a casino - but thankfully, it will never see the light of day.

Anon. 4:01 - I'm never too tired to hold a sign. It's one activity that seems to give one strength instead of sapping it. And yes, our legislators are lazy when they don't bother researching (or caring enough about) slots.

No Casino - Thank you.

Jacquie said...

Absolutely Gladys!
Let's just hope the Middleboro BOS have scared enough people away that the residents will elect some new blood.

Don't forget to get out tomorrow and vote Middleboro!!!

Best of luck Greg Stevens!!!!

Anonymous said...

What impressed me in Boston was all of the new faces, well informed speakers, and of course, the growing audience!

What a shame Treasurer Tim Cahill had to avert his eyes!

Gladys Kravitz said...

Anon. 11:23,

I love the picture from the Statehouse because in that cross section of the rally you can witness our weathered and familiar friends in the background, high up on the statehouse steps, looking over the new faces who gathered there for the first time to listen to the arguments we've heard for two years. Their cheers were inspiring. Their presence uplifting. Like I said, it's great to be an activist.

Anonymous said...

I see your compliment and I'll raise you one...

Had I been as gifted a writer as you, my speech would have been as inspiring as your blog. I would've like that.

Had to use the gambling metaphor. What the heck; its the closest we'll get to a casino in our community, isn't it?

Thanks for the great blog!

Anonymous said...

Treasurer Cahill doesn't want to hear the valid argument that discredit his plan.

Avert his eyes? Amazing what he does to ignore the truth.

No state in this country has solved their budget problems with slots.

Every state with legalized slots has worse budget problems than we do.

Anonymous said...

What is most interesting in this 'debate' is the non-debate.

Supporters of slot parlors and racinos don't want an open and public discussion. They don't want the information to be discussed, shared, spread because their arguments are so severely flawed.

This is particularly true of the union support.

The rank and file need to question the promise of jobs that aren't there.

Slot parlors and racinos will actually eliminate jobs, if you think about it.

Slot machines don't require people to be present to service anything. They need bare warehouses and machines. Everything can be automated. No jobs!

Anonymous said...

A town employee told me that they were promised raises if the casino came. That's why they supported it.

The current Middleboro deficit is about $4 million. Maybe they haven't figured out the math.

Anonymous said...

Union workers have told me that they were told to support the casino, racino, slot parlors. They're not allowed to oppose, ask questions or make comments.

It sounds like the Middleboro Board of Selectmen.

That must be the only tactic that works -- don't think!

The expectations from our legislators is pretty much the same -- don't allow public debate, don't listen to impartial information, don't make an informed decision. Just support it because it's "inevitable"!

Anonymous said...

The Slot Industry doesn't want you talking about Gambling Addiction.

That's the primary source of their revenue.

Were it not for addicts, there would be no industry.

Anonymous said...


As usual you've done a beautiful job presentiing the "unequal" side of IRA.

It was unfair that Middleboro and surrounding communities loose their power to "inevitability" of a "Sovereign Nation" of casino investors in their midst.

As the opposition grows and others begin to understand the threats posed by casinos and slot parlors on the pretense of balancing budgets, we appreciate the time you've invested and your voice in speaking out.

Sadly, there are some who still follow the Fool's Gold of Gambling.

Some people will never see the truth by their choice, but there are growing numbers beginning to understand.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a Casino opponent ont he Middleboro BOS. Close race but McKinnon won. The monopoly has been broken.

Anonymous said...

AS if Middleboro town employees need more raises. They are already bringing the town to its knees financially with their outragous salaries and benefits!

Anonymous said...

Don't blame town employees for being overpaid. Blame the brilliant negotiator who couldn't stuff enough in those contracts. That would be Wayne Perkins, the same one who helped stuff the casino deal through.
If you have a problem with seeing Wayne at town meeting, maybe you shouda voted.

Anonymous said...

14% voter turnout.

Pretty pathetic!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the people who read these blogs are the problem. My whole family voted and most of us even campaigned. Its the ones who couldn't be bothered to get "involved" in town politics who are the problem. Whats sticky is how to get the no shows to understand that local voting is where you can really make the difference. If anyone has ideas I would love to hear them.

Gladys Kravitz said...

No, it's not the people who read the blogs. They all vote. They have, somewhere along the line, for whatever reason, become invested in one or more issues and stuck it out.

Most people have lost the sense of community. For towns the size of Middleboro and Bridgewater - there's not an easy solution to that.

Both our towns have community newspapers. And of course there's the Enterprise.

But take the casino issue - what did these newspapers do, aside from hyperventilate, on occasion, about a done deal, to enfranchise those folks who were effected - to encourage their participation - To encourage readership?


It's one thing to be in Weston and think, heck a casino in Middleboro might be a nice way to pay for my road repairs and school books for my kids. It's another to be trying to raise kids where some billionaire from another continent and a tribe from across the canal feel entitled to tell you they can build an edifice to greed overlooking your backyard and that dammit you ought to be all sorts of grateful.

That's why you're not asking, "why haven't the blogs encouraged public input and voter participation."

Community is a concept that needs work that bloggers do for free.

Middleboro Review said...

OMG! Gladys, not this question again?

Let me offer a few random thoughts --

During the Recall, each of us who circulated the petitions also distributed voter registration forms.

Those who wanted to sign, but acknowledged that they weren't registered were told (at least by me) that their opinion didn't matter if they weren't registered.

Well, the registration numbers have improved -- not ideal, but better.

And several of us delivered registration forms to homes of those who had signed the forms, but weren't registered.

I tracked them and discovered an almost 100% registration and vote of those residents.

There are a number of Precincts that need work.

Last year, a low key group of residents circulated information within their own neighborhoods.

It doesn't have to be a big, official organization.

As you know, voter turnout at Town Meetings has been problematic.

Last year's Fall Town Meeting was postponed for lack of a quorum -- even of those with town contracts to be approved.

A quorum was acheived the 2nd week after some of us got on the blogs and on the phones.

If each of us encourages 2 friends to attend town meeting, we have a quorum!

If each of us gets 5 people to vote, we have a landslide.

Look around your neighborhood. Do you know enough people to encourage them to attend town meeting? If not, what about other groups you're involved with in town?

It has been suggested that a controversial article be placed on every town meeting warrant to get voters out. Maybe we should do the same with the ballot.

During the last few years, I've had an opportunity to knock on doors and have been struck by the number of people who are truly shocked that someone would invite them to town meeting or ask for their vote.

Part of what's easily overlooked is that there are residents who can easily avoid traveling through the center of town and don't know what's transpiring.

And there is no single source of information available. The Gazette provides great local coverage, but not everyone buys it.

Not everyone subscribes to ComCast and I'm unsure of how dependable Verizon's broadcasts are. Some get satellite tv. That would be one good reason for the ptws to include video.

If each of us works at it within our circle, the numbers will increase.

When Steve Spataro was elected, I believe the voter turnout was 3 or 4%.

Prior to last year's Annual Town Meeting, the interim town manager had released and circulated the warrant early enough to provide for discussion and investigation on nemasket (the discussion forum).

In that way, people were informed and comfortable with the warrant articles going into town meeting.

That also allows town meeting to move rapidly, so we're not debating and discussing trivia until midnight.

Hopefully, Cristello will be better organized than he was for the Fall Special Town Meeting.

Don't be defensive about a generic criticism. It fits for the 86% who didn't vote, but we can change it if we work at it.

If I haven't answered your questions or offered enough solutions, post a comment on my blog and I'll respond privately.