Jewish World Review May 7, 2004 / 16 Iyar, 5764
Letter from Beacon Hill: Missing common-sense, blue-collar tough folks
Boston, MA Dear Ma,
I'm won't be back in Pittsburgh for Mother's Day because I'm up in Beacon Hill, just a few blocks from John Kerry's wife's $4.5 million row house, trying to figure out what makes these people tick.
I took a cab from the airport and my driver was raised in a blue-collar Irish family. He is working his way through law school and studies while waiting for fares. You'd think such a hard-working fellow would favor low taxes, so he could work fewer hours and so the economy would be booming when he graduates. But not in Boston.
"Bush is a liar," he told me as he drove. "He knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He went in for political reasons and his tax cuts for the rich have ruined the economy."
I don't get it, Ma. This place is beautiful. Old red brick buildings line the streets. There are dozens of neighborhood pubs populated with friendly and colorful people. This city was the birthplace of the American Revolution but that was long ago when they hated taxes and big government.
The other night I was talking with an intelligent, well-educated girl and the conversation was delightful until it turned to politics. When I asked her why folks here dislike President Bush, she said it's because he is a liar, he favors the rich on the backs of the poor, he's taking away women's rights and he's an elitist. She is convinced Kerry will crush Bush in the fall, despite the fact that Kerry consistently trails Bush in the polls.
Yesterday, I spent the day writing at a fine neighborhood pub on Charles Street. True to Boston's high-tech reputation, the pub had a wireless Internet hookup, allowing me to stay connected while I worked.
Well, a fellow comes up to me and asks me what kind of work I do. We got into a grand chat about the nature of authentic pubs, the beauty of Boston, the friendliness of Beacon Hill residents, and so on. And then the subject turned to politics.
Now this fellow seemed to me to be very sensible and intelligent. He's the same fellow you'd find in any Pittsburgh pub, the kind of fellow you can knock back a few beers with while talking about sports or cars or a million other things. But when I asked him why people like Kerry here, the tone changed real fast.
"Yeah, we like Kerry. I'd be working on his campaign if I could afford to quit my job. But we've been having a nice conversation here, so I don't see any reason to bring politics into it."
I couldn't resist. I asked him, with a look of befuddlement, if people here liked Kennedy. He nodded, then glared at me. He said, "Nice talking to you, pal, but I got to go."
That's right, Ma, they even like Kennedy up here. This cartoonish national embarrassment the same fellow who emboldens our enemies by making outlandish charges against Bush is praised up here by people who otherwise appear to be sane, sober and sensible.
I've only been here a week or so, Ma, but it is clear to me these folks are adamant in their thoughts. There's no room for debate here. They strongly dislike Bush and appear to be eager to defend Kerry and Kennedy's honor with their fists.
It makes no sense to me, Ma. In Pittsburgh, common-sense, blue-collar tough folks vote for Republicans as often as they do Democrats. Bush lost Pennsylvania in the last election, but he has a shot at winning it this time.
But people here are unwavering in their support of liberal policies. It's no wander that the nonpartisan National Journal magazine puts Kerry among the top 10 most liberal senators in recent years.
I don't get this place, Ma. But I just want you to know I wish I was in Pittsburgh on Mother's Day. This place makes me want my mommy.
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© 2003, Tom Purcell