george orwell first fascinated me as an essayist and language stickler. (to me, the most powerful passages in 1984 are those that deal with the corruption of language to influence and control, which is double plus un-good, and also highly pertinent in this age of "haters" and name your steven colbert "the word" here). but, above all, it's his simple allegory, "animal farm", that has me today.
for those who may not recall, or who might not yet have read the little book, (just over 100 pages--too short for you to have an excuse not to at least scan quickly), some anamorphic pigs overthrow the brutality of farm life, and replace it with an intended animal utopia that relies upon several sensible commandments that are quickly distilled to a single law which simply states that "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".
here in lowell this might otherwised be paraphrased as "how long have you lived here?"
i'm currently up to saturday's sun, in which editor kendall wallace immediately characterizes the two city council candidates with whom he has recently met as alternately "a relative newcomer to lowell", and "lived in the city all his life". this is before we hear anything else about either candidate, other than their perceived "sincerity".
oh, holy jeezus.
back in pre-colonial times, voting and office holding were restricted to men (yes, only men) of property, which i'm guessing would have suited kendall and his dream girl-next-door-all-her-life, rita mercier, just fine. (assuming that rita, like her outspoken pubic personae, is not bereft of testicles). since then, as a country, we've dabbled with literacy tests and other various means to ensure that those whom we do not trust to vote or hold office do not vote or hold office, but here in lowell we seem to have arrived at "you're not from around here, are you" and winner-take-all-voting (sans primaries to ensure maximum dilution of challenger voting) to perpetuate the inbred mentality of our little private fiefdom.
well, kendall, rita, bud, et al., i'm not from around here. i do vote. as a matter of fact, i have a constitutionally protected right to vote in such as way as to guarantee that my vote is worth exactly the same as every other vote tossed into the box by those who may or may not have lived here longer than i have. in further point of fact, observing how embarrassed all you "lifers" seem to be about the state of our fair city these days, what with complaints about video portrayals of what really happens on the streets of said fair city and all and many other things, i might argue that myself, and the folks like me who love this place unconditionally regardless of their tenure and who also aren't prone to be embarrassed about the way it is, are actually better qualified to be "more equal than others" in our little political shell game, but, hey, that would be wrong, wouldn't it.
lowell was arbitrarily carved out of a whole lot of other places (the type of one of which my forebears, who are also coincidentally lifelong sun subscribers, still call home, but, hey, who's keeping track of that sort of thing), and populated overwhelmingly by people who came here from elsewhere to live, work, raise families and otherwise better the world. (remember--"art is the handmaid of human good"). it was founded on foreign ingenuity (francis cabot lowell, who was from boston, not lowell, by the way, stole his power loom design directly from the english) and built on the backs of no end to the list of foreigners, from irish canal diggers to immigrant new england and quebeqcois mill nee farm girls. an wang, whose footprints still literally cover this city, from the middlesex community college building by the lower locks, to the crosspoint towers out by the highway, was born in shanghai. when you get right down to it, besides kerouac, who fled, and ed mcmahon, who let his alcoholism likewise carry him away towards california, the most recent "local" son we seem to be talking about these days is billy sullivan. (ok, i peeked ahead at the front page of tuesday's paper). you remember billy--he's the guy who bankrupted the patriots figuring out a way to somehow lose ones shirt bankrolling a pre-pedophilia michael jackson tour. the way i figure it, besides kerouac, all we've got of any substance being born here is mickey ward, who i think is great, but, let's also be honest, whose claim to fame is losing 2 out of 3.
yeah, but i'm not from around here.
want to know what i think?
i think lowell is great because the majority of us AREN'T from around here. i get to look forward to thursday night's foray over to tyler park to hear jen kearney (who's not from around here, but who lives here now, to our great advantage) which can include a supper stop at phien's kitchen, that i understand on good chowhound authority is one of the best little lao restaurants anywhere this side of the pacific. tonight, over at mickey's, i'll get to say goodbye to (quasi-local) melanie driscoll, whose dreams are taking her to nashville, while reveling to the sounds of all sorts of GREAT musicians who presently call lowell home, and who aren't going anywhere, even while their music is taking them everywhere. (yes, jen's rumored to be coming, but you know it's always been carl that i love).
not from around here? GOOD.
double plus good.
from around here and still open-minded about the rest of us?
double plus good, too.
as for kendall, rita, bud, and the whole raft of "how long have you lived here?" folks, well, they can just kiss my ballot.
Labels: lowell, politics