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All Politics Is Local

(Photo: Dion van Huyssteen / Flickr)

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Walking is the thing for very pregnant ladies, because very pregnant ladies don’t want to be pregnant anymore, and word has it walking is good for bringing about the endgame. The last bit of being pregnant, comprised entirely of endless, writhing, inconsolable discomfort, is the little secret no one tells you about until you pass 36 weeks, and then it’s all, “Oh, yeah, you’re there, it’s the worst, sorry I didn’t warn you.”

Not that a warning would have done any good. Hearing about it is one thing; experiencing it is entirely another, and there ain’t no bridge to span that chasm. My wife is so thoroughly and completely pregnant that, if the schedule holds true, I will be the father of a daughter the next time you see my by-line on this page. She is nothing-for-it pregnant. She is just-be-over pregnant. We are at DEFCON 4 and waiting for word from the front.

So we walk. And we walk. And we walk. Slowly, surely, steadily, from hoot to holler and back to hoot, we walk.

On Wednesday, we walked all over downtown Boston, from Dalton St. to Boylston St. to Newbury St., through the Prudential Mall and the Copley Mall and back to Dalton St., and even stopped by the old bar to see Phil and Suzi and Ashley…and then we walked some more.

While we were walking, I saw a plane flying low overhead and towing a banner…but before I tell you about that, I need to explain a few things. First, Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey are running for the Democratic nomination to win John Kerry’s open Senate seat. Second, Lynch and Markey were set to debate each other Wednesday night. Third, the Boston Bruins were playing the hated, despised, despicable, flop-happy Montreal Canadiens that same night, and at stake was first place in the conference.

The banner being towed by that plane accused Stephen Lynch of being a Canadien’s fan. Seriously: someone paid to wing a plane and a banner over Boston to attack Lynch for supporting the Habs. Getting smeared as a Habs fan around here is about as bad as you can get, short of a photograph of Lynch sitting in Derek Jeter’s lap. I’ve been around pretty much every kind of politics – ward, town, city, county, state and federal – and that banner was about the best example of “Tip O’Neill politicking” I’ve seen in a long time.

What is “Tip O’Neill politicking”?


“All politics is local.”

That is the lesson I intend to teach my daughter. As silly as it sounds to take a life lesson from a plane banner spouting sports nonsense, whoever did that was taking a page from Tip O’Neill’s well-worn playbook.

Do what you can within reach of your arm, I will tell her, because anything you touch is part of a tapestry that reaches far and wide, even unto the highest and mightiest seats of power. Do what is possible within reach of your arm, make the weak mighty and give the voiceless a clarion call right where you are, where you live and breathe, within reach of that strong, sure arm. Do what you can, always.

Too simple? I hope not. I felt her moving against my hand later that night, felt that strong, sure arm pushing against my palm. It does not get any more local than that. We haven’t even met, this young lady and I, but I can feel her force and will. My wife can feel it in triplicate. I think my daughter is strong. I hope she is strong. She will have to be, whether she likes it or not.

My daughter will come into a world where the “War on Terror” is what the “Cold War” was for me. My daughter will come into a world where wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still smolder, just as I was born into a world where the war in Vietnam still smoldered, and would for another four years. My daughter will come into a world controlled by a fortunate few who sup on the suffering of the rest. My daughter will come into a world where Boston may cease to exist because the ocean is rising to claim it. My daughter will come into a world that will terrify her, and she won’t understand why it is the way it is.

I will have to explain all that to her. I will have to tell her about low men who worship their money even as they throw the cross in the faces of the people, because it is easy to pick the pocket of someone on their knees. I will have to tell her about hate, and wrath, and pettiness, and greed, and about all the harm that cruelty and selfishness can do once it has found a seat in the human heart.

And when she comes to wonder what can be done, I will tell her of Daniel Berrigan, and read to her some lines he wrote long ago:

Some stood up once, and sat down
Some walked a mile, and walked away
Some stood up twice, then sat down
“I’ve had it” they said.
Some walked two miles
then walked away
“It’s too much,” they cried.
Some stood and stood and stood.
They were taken for fools
They were taken for being taken in
Some walked and walked and walked
They walked the earth
They walked the waters
They walked the air
“Why do you stand,” they were asked
“and why do you walk?”
“Because of the children,” they said
“And because of the heart
“And because of the bread,”
“Because the cause is the heart’s beat
And the children born
And the risen bread.”

I will tell her: within reach of your arm, do what you can.

In the meantime, we walk.

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