The sounds of summer
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, July 16, 2015


Let's insist that it's not the middle of summer: We shouldn't count from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The summer solstice was just four weeks ago and the fall equinox won't happen for two months! I saw a back-to-school ad in a newspaper circular but it has nothing to do with me; I'm really glad I don't have to go back to school, ever again. I'll never have that college degree, but somehow I've had a fine life without ever going into education debt.

My job of state taxpayer activist is going well at the moment, as we learn that the final state budget will not contain the income tax increase for which Sens. Lovely and McGee voted. The Senate-House conference committee decided to reject the Senate plan to kill the voters' income tax rollback, so Gov. Baker won't have to veto that provision. He and the House can also be proud of talking the Senate into beginning serious reform of the MBTA.

It's a major step for the Legislature to take on the unions and make some privatization easier by freezing the Pacheco Law, which Sen. Mark Pacheco calls the “Taxpayer Protection Act”– a name which Greg Sullivan of the Pioneer Institute calls Orwellian. Along with noting sales tax revenue that the T gets each year from us all, most T riders are taxpayers who were not protected from being stranded in the snow last winter.

I was so glad that my commuter days were over before the transit system started to collapse. I like working from home, where I write my columns.

Which brings me to some corrections I must make. Last month, I quoted the lyrics to “Summertime”, citing George Gershwin. Two alert readers were quick to inform me that George Gershwin wrote melodies, not lyrics: “Summertime, and the living was easy….” was written by his brother Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward.

The fact about summertime remains: I'm ready for some easy living, despite the news from the world that I can't do anything about it right now. Congress has 60 days to review President Obama's Iran nuclear deal before voting to support it, or not. It's too early to know if there will be a fair resolution to the Greek crisis. Our good old USA just reached a national debt that is 103 percent of our Gross National Product. I am waiting for the presidential candidates to start talking about this.

Mostly everyone is talking about Donald Trump, which brings me to my second column correction. When I proposed my own debate plan for Republicans, I disqualified him because I don't want someone with a hairpiece as president (on the grounds that vanity interferes with focusing on serious issues). Avi Nelson told me that he didn't think Trump's hair is fake because with his money he could afford a better piece. I responded that with Trump's money he can afford a better hairdresser. But as it turns out, Avi is right. I saw a Fox reporter given permission to tug on Donald's hair and it didn't budge!

Then Trump started speaking the truth about illegal immigration, and I found myself glad he is running, not because I want to vote for him, but because maybe one of the other more mature candidates will emulate his truth-telling, his fearlessness in the face of political correctness, his willingness to take on the media. People who aren't even Republican are getting on his bandwagon, outraged by the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant in “sanctuary city” San Francisco. As I write this, a new Suffolk University poll shows Trump ahead with 18 percent.

Meanwhile, the establishment Republicans are lining up with establishment talking points to bring The Donald down. After listening to this character assassination on Sunday morning television for a while, I turned from politics to tennis at Wimbledon.

As part of my aging process, I tend to support older athletes against the young whippersnappers; Roger Federer plays my favorite sport well for his age. I myself gave it up decades ago, along with hiking in the Alps.

Novak Djokavich is amazing though. I had to laugh when, accepting the trophy, he generously noted that his generation always looked up to Federer. Roger is 34; Novak is 28. Glad my specialty is politics, where my generation is still running for president or hanging on in Congress and no one seems to find this odd.

Allow me to point out that although my own family background is Croatian, I do not hold Djokovic’s Serbian ethnicity against him. You didn’t hear me demanding that Wimbledon officials remove the Serbian flag from its venue because it might remind some Croats about a long-ago war. Wish some Americans could get over the past and start to worry about the future; maybe we need some Greek flags to hang near our capitols.

This week’s news is the just-released Harper Lee novel, which was written before “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published. It seems that Atticus Finch was actually a racist, as were probably most men in Alabama in the ’50s. The amazing thing to me, and the point of the “Mockingbird” plot, is that he was able to rise above this to defend an innocent black man.

Atticus remains forever one of my favorite literary characters – along with those of J.D Salinger, who is featured in a new PBS biography. I don’t care about his private life, I just care about Holden Caulfield, and the entire Glass family. “Franny and Zooey” remains one of my favorite books and I identify more than ever with Franny’s dislike of phonies.

Which brings me back, somehow, to Donald Trump, who is speaking the truth now, but criticized Republican plans about immigration reform in 2012 as “mean-spirited”. I think I need to drop out of politics for a few days, and pay attention to NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaching Pluto, extraordinary human achievement to balance human folly.

As I retain Atticus Finch and the Glass family as my favorite fictional people, I continue to count Pluto as a planet, one of the nine I learned in grade-school. At some point one must take a stand: on politics, on literature, on science. But it’s OK to take a break, to celebrate our remaining freedoms by enjoying some lazy days of still-early summer.

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665