Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A state where people engage

It's primary day in Massachusetts. The citizenry is doing its civic duty as the sign in Walpole enjoins. Unless the polls are very wrong, no surprising outcomes will emerge. But having spent much of the last month in Massachusetts (and New Hampshire and Vermont) you could see that these are places where people engage with their politics. Lawn signs are common; so are bummer stickers.

When Rebecca spoke about Mainstreaming Torture in Walpole, her hosts proudly showed off their brand new, energy-efficient library. In order to build it, the town had had to pass a special tax; the measure won by a mere ten votes! No wonder those townspeople think their votes matter.

The same peace group told of bringing resolutions against U.S. wars up at their annual town meetings. Perhaps the sense of wide engagement in New England has something to do with the survival of that small scale, popular institution? It certainly seems possible.
One Massachusetts custom always strikes me as simply odd. Apparently the state practice (by law?) is to fly the US flag, the state flag, and the Vietnam POW/MIA flag on public buildings. I've always found that last a peculiar custom. I can empathize with the grief that surviving veterans must feel about any of their comrades whose fate was never clear. But the belief that the Vietnamese were holding or hiding some of our soldiers after we withdrew has always seemed a grisly fantasy. Flying that flag looks to me like endorsing a conspiracy theory whose time has come and gone. Why is Massachusetts still doing this?
As we hit the road, the leaves have begun to turn. Autumn is in the air. We're in Pennsylvania today at the Kendal in Kennett Square.

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