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Remember Good Will Hunting?–Specifically, do you remember the character Will Hunting? Let me refresh your memory: While at a bar with his loyal Southie friends, he notices a pretentious Harvard student trying to make his friend (Ben Affleck) look stupid in front of a group of attractive girls. Will comes to his friend’s aid. After kicking this arrogant bastard’s ass intellectually, he offers the following bit of wisdom:
The sad thing is in about 50 years you’re going to start doing some thinking on your own, and by then you’ll realize there are only two certainties in life … One don’t do that. Two, you dropped $150 grand on an education you could have received for $1.50 in late charges at the public library
After embarrassing this smug Harvard student, Will adds, “And if you got a problem with that, maybe we can step outside and deal with it that way.” (Damon, Matt; Affleck, Ben; Good Will Hunting: 1997) That scene truly reflects the many talents and virtues of Southie. It says, “Yes, I’m an intellectual, but I’m a fighter too. And my loyalty to my friends is absolute.” It is a loyalty that grows from the empathic/survivalist nature of Southie folks–people whose cultural roots are planted firmly in Ireland, so much so that we often jest that South Boston is the western-most county of Ireland.
Is this character merely a fictional character? Is it possible that the “genius old school Southie kid” has a non-fictional counterpart?
Of course, a lot of outsiders will say no. To these folks, one is stereotyped as an idiot when they either detect a “Southie accent” or hear one say, “I’m from Southie–I and 8th St.”
There are folks who will cite sociological reasons that a non-fictional Will Hunting is a fantasy. They will cite socioeconomic reasons. And they will cite cultural reasons. And they are wrong.
Anyone that knows Southie, knows that our culture is the reason why we not only survived, but thrived.
Oppressed by the English at home, the Irish diaspora began a great migration to Boston. There is but one reason why Boston and many other parts of the country claim Irish ancestry: The Irish Famine. The Irish people literally starved. The English iniquitously deprived the Irish of the crops that the Irish themselves farmed and harvested. The English brought the food home to England, and left the Irish starving to death.
The Irish Famine Memorial – Boston
Thus is the genesis of the prominent Irish diaspora in Massachusetts (Plymouth County still has the highest concentration–outside of Ireland–of those with Irish ancestry); the diaspora that took “blue-blooded” Boston by storm; the diaspora that mastered the blood-sport of Boston politics; the diaspora that within a couple of generations, proudly elected one of their own as President of The United States: President John F Kennedy.
In my office, there is an authentic sign that reads, “No Irish Need Apply.” There is a simple reason I keep that sign on display. It motivates me. Oppression is the great motivator. And the oppression of the Irish, both in Ireland and in America, affected our culture immensely. We had to work harder; we had to study harder; we were inculcated by our parents and grandparents with the belief that hard work and education cut the key to freedom.
With cultural beliefs such as these, one can theorize that Will Hunting from Southie is a non-fictional character. But we do not need to speculate when one can cite the multiplicity of Will Huntings from Southie.
Let’s start with Senator Joseph Moakley: a man from the Old Harbor Housing Projects in Southie (today it is often called Mary Ellen McCormick). Moakley grew up in public housing and fought for his country in World War II, even though he did not have to–he lied about his age when he enlisted.
He went on to graduate from Suffolk Law School (Suffolk Law School named their new library after The Honorable Joseph Moakley). He was a state representative, a state senator, and then a Congressman who labored his whole career for the working man, never forgetting the oppression in the collective Irish memory.
The talent of folks from Southie is all-encompassing. Although we do have numerous political heroes, we have sports heroes too. For instance, Southie is home to the first winner of an Olympic Gold Medal in 1500 years, James Connolly. He won the triple jump.
Stanley Cup Champion, Brian Noonan, is also from Southie’s housing projects. Never forgetting where he first got his start, after winning the cup, he brought it to Southie’s Murphy Rink, where I got to behold the most cherished trophy in sports. His gesture made every Southie hockey player believe in himself and herself.
“Wait,” you’re saying, “Will Hunting is an intellectual genius. The people you listed are talented, but not one of them is a rocket scientist.” True. Let’s amend this careless oversight.
Southie is proud to call Eugene Lally a native son, and he is indeed a rocket scientist. He assisted NASA with their Apollo Programs and pioneered digital photography.
Southie folks are not just characters in movies–they are also Hollywood Actors. Brian Goodman became an actor after spending 20 years in prison. Authenticity is his hallmark. He actually included former “marks” (the drug dealers and underworld folks that he robbed) as characters in movies. Goodman’s filmography is incredible: Catch me If You Can, The Last Castle, The Fast and The Furious, etc. One could go on forever with his filmography.
The Irish are well-known for their talented writers: James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Jonathan Swift, George Bernard Shaw. My hero Michael Patrick MacDonald belongs in that pantheon of great Irish writers.
MacDonald grew up in the Old Colony Projects in Southie. His book, All Souls – A Family Story From Southie, illustrates the great Southie paradox. Although there are many blessings bequeathed to the Southie’s young people, there are dark elements at play in this neighborhood.
Irish culture forged under the heavy yoke of English oppression had arrived in Southie. Souhie’s Irish diaspora suppresses painful memories and obfuscates the true past to “outsiders” (Freud said that the only race impervious to psychoanalysis is the Irish because of their propensity to keep their problems hidden).
However, the world is now aware of the dark elements at play in Southie. My family knew James “Whitey” Bulger, Senate President Bulger’s brother (one the most powerful gangster–the other the most powerful gangster) ended up becoming the FBI’s most wanted man. And not too long ago he made international news after getting caught in Santa Monica with hundreds of thousands of dollars and an arsenal of guns hidden in the walls of his apartment.
Organized crime is a scourge in ethnic, urban neighborhoods, especially black, Italian, and Irish neighborhoods. Each of these cultures faced violence and oppression from those that who were supposed to keep the peace and promote justice.
Speaking of social justice, Michael Patrick McDonald has done community work for every part of Boston suffering from violence, drug epidemics, or any type of despair. Michael Patrick MacDonald now spends his life trying to improve the lives of the working-poor people of Boston. He helped to start Boston Gun Buy Back Program. He is Writer and Residence at Northeastern. He is someone, as a firm believer in Jesuit Principles, that I emulate.
Southie is also the hometown of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, lyricist, and screenwriter, David Lindsay-Abaire. He won The Pulitzer Prize for his 2007 drama, Rabbit Hole. He hails from West 5th St.
Obviously, the Irish are prolific writers, and I cannot mention all of Southie’s writers.
The last two “Will Huntings” are special to me for different reasons, but I hold them both in the highest regard.
Speaker of The House John McCormack served in The United States House of Representatives from 1928-1971. He served in World War I. In 1940, he became House Majority Leader. “You’ll never get anything done without Democratic help,” he often yelled across the aisle to his Republican colleagues in the 1950’s during the Eisenhower Administration.
Any student of history or politics must note that during the passage of The New Deal Legislation, he was serving in the party leadership (the second highest-ranking Democrat). He became Speaker for 9 years, and the legislation passed under his Speakership makes for one of the finest legacies of any Speaker.
He was an early advocate of Civil Rights and the Speaker of The House when The Civil Right’s Act of 1964 was made law (I only wish that that the The self-professed liberals I’ve met who are so quick to generalize Southie as racists knew that it was under the auspices of our native son, John McCormack, that Civil Rights Laws were passed). Speaker McCormick also advocated for and signed laws protecting early education, health care, and elderly welfare. McCormack was a legislative giant who helped pass Great Society’s Reforms. After the assassination of President Kennedy, Speaker McCormack became next in line for the presidency.
The next giant that I am to mention comes from the housing project in Southie named after Speaker John McCormack’s mother, Mary Ellen McCormack. His name is Senate President William Bulger. He and most original Old Harbor families like mine would most likely call our neighborhood Old Harbor; although none of us forgot what the McCormack family did for us.
William Bulger is a true Jesuit-trained intellectual. At Boston College High School, by the time we graduate, we are ready to “be men for others.” In other words, we will spend our everyday to help those in need. And Senate President Bulger always heeded the virtues that The Jesuits taught him to strive for.
And after going to BC High, BC, and BC Law, earning the honorable title Triple Eagle, his Jesuit education was bound to influence the rest of his life. He became a public servant: First as Massachusetts State Rep, then State Senator. As state senator he was elected Senate President. He served from 1971-1994, which is the longest tenure ever held by someone in that position.
He was a political mastermind. But the reason folks love him still to this day is because of his renowned constituent service–another example of Southie’s loyalty and empathy at work. Bulger would field calls on his own and get back to people on his own. That is unheard of now in the Massachusetts State House. The proudest day of my life was when William Bulger, who graduated exactly 50 years before me at BC High, and ironically handed me my B.C. High diploma.
One would be hard-pressed to find such ubiquitous talent in a town of this size. Good Will Hunting should not be seen as a story about a genius whose Southie upbringing makes him an anomaly in a town that is bereft of talented people and intellectuals. Indeed, the opposite is true. Southie, a town with a culture influenced by the oppression of our ancestors; it is a town full of talent. But most importantly, Southie’s educated political leaders proved that a neighborhood of empathy and compassion underlies the rough exterior.
Imagine for a moment that Obama had two immigrant wives, multiple failed marriages, multiple failed businesses. Imagine Obama standing in front a sign with the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”. Imagine that Obama refused to turn over his tax returns; had extensive ties to a foreign government that just so happens to be our greatest enemy: Russia and Putin; imagine if Lspent millions of tax dollars on maintaining three residences for the Secret Service to protect.
Trunpists are the biggest hypocrites–and racists I ever met in my life. Obama, by virtue of his odd name and his skin color was accused of being a terrorist—and according to Trump, the leader of ISIS. Yet Trump has a bromance going with a dictator who interfered with our sacred democratic process by hacking into the DNC. And what was Trump’s response to Russia: keep spying on us.
Trump’s aides and even his cabinet members met with well-known Russian spies during the course of the election, then lied about it. The same voters who called Obama un-American, a terrorist, and much worse voted for a guy who supports a nefarious dictator who interfered with our election; who is interfering with the election of our Western allies; and has trampled over the sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia. Trump supporters have put the West in serious danger by voting for a guy who has seriously weakened America and Western Power.
If Obama had immigrant wives and failed marriages, bankrupted businesses, refused to release his tax documents-. He wouldn’t have made it through the Democratic Primary in ’08. Yet Trump somehow won the primary and electoral college. Folks are hurting, and in the age of the 30 second sound bite, where free media seems to be earned through bizarre rants that scapegoat immigrants and people of color for the financial struggle of segments of the American Electorate, Trump’s message resonated.
How would Trump supporters reacted to the man they called a terrorist, a communist, and disgusting racial epithets if he appeared on stage with a slogan that said “Make America Great Again”.
By the way, Trump is the most nefarious hypocrite in this country after calling Obama corrupt for not releasing his “long form” birth certificate–this coming from a guy that has broke with a decades long tradition of releasing his tax documents).
The fallacious right wing talking point that Obama has weakened America’s power in the world is such bullshit. Despite criticism from the left wing of his own party, he droned ISIS back to the Stone Age, assassinated its leaders with the heroic service of our Navy Seals, gave the order to kill bin Laden, and kicked ISIS’s ass out of Iraq. He gave the appearance that the United States was backing out of the Middle East, so that the Reform Party of Iran could achieve victory in Iraq (sending the madman Ahmedinijad packing), which led to the end of Iran’s nuclear program. But he did not back out of the Middle East: he used a scalpal rather than a sledge hammer. The scalpal–drones and special forces–has decimated ISIS. Anytime ISIS elected a new leader, Obama took him out. Leaderless and confused, they cannot even hold on to territory never mind plan an attack on the Homeland. The sledge hammer used by Bush and his neo-cons has destroyed the Cradle of Civilization. These pictures were taken from a friend of mine from Baghdad today:
Bushes quagmire expanded Iranian influence, and has created a hatred towards the United States that will last generations.
President Obama inherited this disaster in the Middle East, and a capitalistic system on the brink of collapse. Yet, he achieved a record of 83 straight months of job growth, expanded our economy while Europe’a shrank, and hit new records with the Stock Market. He increased America’s influence in the world with soft power (the ability to attract people and nations to one’s cause through ideological appeal. And he used hard power in a way to create the least amount of blow back; a stark difference from Trump’s indiscriminate bombings and impetuous decisions to green light missions that led to the death of an 8 year old and a Navy Seal (his sacrifice will never be forgotten).
Obama stood up to the world’s bullies, particularly Putin. Eastern Europe is the most militarized it has been since the Cold War. And now we have Trump who thinks that a sociopathic dictator help bent on weakening the West, is his buddy.
President Obama already realizes that America is great, and he was willing to defend the West from Russian aggression.
Trump does not respect American Values. A patriotic president does not call on our enemy to spy on us; he does not allow espionage to go unpunished; he does not reward a dictator that has attacked us and our Western Allies to the White House for a visit (and then egregiously attack the our 1st Ammendment right of freedom of the press by shutting out the American Press, while allowing the Russian press access; a guy with nothing to hide does not fire the non-partisan FBI Director for investigating possible ties to the Russian government; and he does not utter the words “Make America Great Again”–we already are great.
President Obama realized this, and he also cherished American Values and projected American values and strength around the world; whereas Trump I nothing more than a treasonous self-serving stooge whose Administration has been a complete and utter failure.
President Obama cherishes American values, abhorrs corruption, stood up to the world’s bullies. Trump denegrates American values, is corrupt as the day is long, and befriends the dictator who is currently attacking the West. One has to be a serious hypocrite to call President Obama unpatriotic, a terrorists, or weak, while supporting the guy who tramples freedom of speech and freedom of press and befriends the dictator who is undermining our Western Values.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has developed a mythical status. So it might be difficult to imagine FDR getting stern criticism from both sides of the aisle. But at one point in his presidency, this was indeed the case. When he signed the cornerstone of the New Deal–Social Security–into law, The Right Wing called him communist. The Left Wing, of the opinion that it did not do enough, accused FDR of being a cop-out.
President Barack Obama is currently facing the same critiques FDR faced in the 1940’s . “This is socialism,” screams the right wing. “It doesn’t go far enough,” says the left wing. President Obama has received criticism from both sides of the aisle since the passage of The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare). The president has been the target not just of mere civil criticism; he’s been the victim of egregious invective:
The magnitude, intensity, and obsession of rightist hatred of the president is unprecedented in the history of American politics because it has poisoned the ability of Republican leaders in Congress to work in good faith with a twice-elected American president … No American president should ever have to defend his Christianity and Americanism.
Bedowsky, Brent “The GOP’s Obama Problem” The Hill (2 April 13)
Theodore Roosevelt was the first president who attempted to promulgate national health insurance. His cousin FDR tried twice and failed both times. Truman tried passing a single universal comprehensive health care plan. Obama’s mere suggestion of such a Truman-like system unleashed the right wing attack dogs barking their favorite word: “Communist! Communist!” President Truman while fighting the Cold War against the Soviets, introduced the single universal comprehensive health plan. The Clinton Administration also tried a form of Universal Health Insurance and failed.
This battle was 100 years in the making. Our most revered presidents failed to pass this historic piece of legislation: TR, FDR, and Truman. President Obama, cognizant of the need for health care reform and the government’s responsibility to protect American lives, achieved a remarkable legislative victory by signing The Affordable Health Care Act into law.
The Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) has been overlooked and overshadowed by the propagation of egregious lies, i.e., Obama is going to appoint death panels and kill Grandma.
I think most Americans believe in the that health care is a right associated with the right to life. I doubt there are many people out there who believe that we ought to let a person die of treatable cancer because the 3 part- time jobs he works does not offer insurance to part-time employees (although at a Republican Presidential Debate in Texas, when the candidates were asked whether a man without insurance should be left to die, a number of people yelled, “Let him die!”)
This is not how we treat our fellow citizens. We do not allow a mother to die to because her insurance company claims that her breast cancer is a pre-existing condition. Finally we elected a president with the courage and fortitude to battle a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry with billions of dollars to spend on lobbying efforts, commercials, and public relations.
Yet your President stood up to these organizations of iniquity and said, “No, I represent the American people not you. And we are going to stop you from allowing more Americans to die just so you can continue to hand out billion dollar parachutes to people whose job it is to figure out how to get out of paying the medical treatment of a dying American.”
The insurance companies could not intimidate or “buy off” President Obama. And of course they threatened him: they poured money into the Scott Brown Campaign in Massacusetts hoping to take away the Democratic super-majority. If we kept that super-majority, it would have forced these nefarious insurance companies to actually take a lesson in what capitalism is really all about: competition (How is it that America’s fascist movement, known as The Tea Party thinks that a competitive market economy is socialism? But, then again, look at the source). Insurance would have had to compete across state lines; they would have had to compete with a government program. The cost of health care would have dropped precipitously.
Despite Brown’s election, President Obama still pulled it off. He was able to end the corrupt business practices of health insurance companies: no more pre-existing condition refusals; an increase in preventative medicine; now kids can remain on their parents plan until after college; and 30 million more people are insured. In the long-run people will live longer healthier lives.
But this could of course all be a Pyrrhic victory now that The Koch Brothers’ in-house corporate attorney put our democratic-republic on its back with Citizens United.
(To be continued)
By Paul J Adams Jr
Like the line in “Southie is my Hometown”, many South Bostonians (myself included) are “hot under the collar” about the ignoble decision to exclude The Veterans for Peace from marching in The Saint Patrick’s Day/Evacuation Day parade. Ultimately, this day is about celebrating our veterans who sacrificed so much so that we may live in peace! It is disgraceful and dishonorable that these veterans–because of their advocation of peace–are banned from the parade. It makes one wonder why The Veterans for Peace are reproached by the parade’s architects?
These folks did not fight to propagate a militaristic culture in our country–a country that is always on war-footing or heavily involved in conflicts that are injurious to our national interest. Last decade’s foreign policy (The Bush Doctrine) has led to a decline in our power and influence in international affairs (I will not delve into the costly Iraq debacle and how it empowered our greatest enemies–maybe next time).
Why do we fight wars? It is so that we may live in a world where there is peace with justice. Sometimes there is peace, but justice is absent, and that may be cause for war. So we fight for both peace and justice. The motivating factor of our veterans and our current men and woman in uniform is to bring about peace and justice for the American People.
They do not wish to be on permanent war-footing. And the bane of this country since World War II has been the creation of the military-industrial complex that thrives in our nationalistic culture (unfortunately, our Saint Patrick’s Day Parade has become an example of that militaristic culture). Their must always be an enemy–a bogey-man. First it was the Soviet Union and communism; now it is al Qaeda and Islamic Fundamentalism.
We do have real enemies in the world. However, the military-industrial complex creates an irrational fear in the American People so that the arms manufacturers continue to get most of our tax dollars. In 2013, 57% of the president’s proposed discretionary spending went to defense. The United States is responsible for almost half of the world’s military spending at 48%.
We are on a permanent war footing, so that the CEO’s of companies like Boeing can continue to take most of our tax dollars in order to remain uber-rich. How is that not the redistribution of wealth that hawkish-conservatives hypocritically accuse Progressives of?
The Veterans for Peace bring a much-needed argument to the table, and they do so by innocuously calling for peace. But the powers that be that are victims of military-industrial propaganda–or perhaps, even more dangerously, they are sincerely nationalistic–unjustly ban The Veterans for Peace from our parade.
As aforementioned, 57% of proposed discretionary spending goes to the military whilst our education system continues to suffer, whilst our infrastructure falls apart, whilst the middle-class continues to disappear.
The biggest threat to our nation–to our superpower status–is the continuous neglect of our educational system and the middle-class–not al Qaeda, not Islamic fundamentalism.
We reached superpower status by investing in America’s infrastructure, by making college affordable through the promulgation of legislation like the GI Bill, which led to the formation of a strong middle-class protected by strong unions.
“Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.” Our national policies are a mirror reflection of the policies of the Romans in the last years of this great empire’s existence. In their death throws, most tax dollars were allocated to military defense spending, which led to an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. Rich Roman families fled and created their own independent fiefdoms to avoid taxation (call it an early form of tax sheltering).
America and our leaders do not seem to be students of history. If we were, we would already know what the result of our policies will be the collapse of our great American superpower status–a mirror image of the collapse of Rome.
We have a lot to learn from these Veterans for Peace. They are true patriots warning us of our eminent demise if we continue to financially ignore our domestic problems in order to redistribute the wealth to the wealthiest 1%.
Leaving them out of the parade is shameful. It is an attempt to propagate the military-industrial complex that the powers that be in South Boston subscribe to.
Would that the beef were just old and not rancid. Your observation that Linehan’s resistance “reflected poorly on a city that has “moved ahead in terms of diversity,” is a classic example Globe dereliction of duty in reporting the news. How has the City of Boston moved ahead in terms of diversity when Veterans for Peace, other advocates of non-violence, and the LGBT community are barred from participation in the breakfast and parade while an entire political establishment professes impotence. Indeed, minimal inquiry would reveal that recipients of the Bronze Star and a mother of a concerned serviceperson during the Iraq war were manhandled from the Convention Center for attempting to address the audience. When will the Globe ever give us the rest of the story?
South Boston Residents for Peace