By Karen Cord Taylor
Are you working hard? Paying attention? Being involved?
Some people apparently believe you aren’t. You are not worthy of their attention. They are leaving you out.
The Boston Water and Sewer Commission is one of the perpetrators. Its recent flyer listed the sites in each neighborhood to which Boston residents could go to meet a BWSC staff member and pay a bill or get answers to questions. The problem? There were no sites listed for the Downtown and Waterfront, Bay Village, Beacon Hill or the Back Bay. Do residents of those neighborhoods have no needs? You could probably traipse over to the North End branch library or Chinatown’s Benevolent Association on Tyler Street to do business with water and sewer, but still.
This brings up a strange way the city has of lumping neighborhoods together. For example, city officials usually speak of Beacon Hill and the Back Bay in one breath. It’s true they lie next to one another and sort of share a demographic. But life in these two neighborhoods is completely different.
With long blocks, large buildings, back alleys and parking spaces in those alleys, Back Bay residents have more in common with the South End than with Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill, with its narrow streets, narrow sidewalks, trash out on those sidewalks twice a week and nowhere but the street for cars to park, is more like the North End than it is like the Back Bay.
And then there’s Bernie. Say it isn’t so, Bernie. You don’t want some of us anymore. When you were in Boston in early April you and Senator Elizabeth Warren had a great rally. Then you dropped the bombshell: you “proposed a restructuring of the Democratic Party, one [that] would be made up of the working class, rather than the ‘liberal elite,’ ” the newspapers reported. Who do you think was there cheering you on in downtown Boston? A large percentage of the 1,600-plus college-educated crowd were members of that liberal elite.
That reminds me of the years I spent long ago in the National Writers Union. As a member, I was also a non-paying member of the United Auto Workers. (Bernie, would that get me back in your good graces?) I liked the NWU. I participated in workshops and a writers’ group and made many friends who have had success with their writing. One member came up with the title of my first book. I demonstrated with the NWU in front of a Back Bay bookseller when that fearful chain decided not to carry Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses because of threats from the haters. The National Writers Union was a good organization. But I noticed something: some members seemed more interested in being in a union, especially one in which your job did not require you to shower off the grime at the end of every day, than they were in writing. They were incurable romantics in love with the labor movement, and the only way they could become part of that labor movement was to do it with writers.
But back to Bernie. I wondered. Who is he referring to when he rejects the liberal elite? Is it people who live in Boston who have been to college? Is it National Writers Union members who actually write for a living? Isn’t he one of the members of the liberal elite?
So many questions. So many prejudices. So much name calling. So much partitioning off everyone from everyone else. There is another insidious way of being left-out. The victims are those who can’t stay up late. How are we early-to-bedders going to enjoy Saturday Night Live and Stephen Colbert, which everyone is talking about? Why can’t these programs be on at 9 p.m. or even 10 p.m.? Record them, you say. Play them at other times. I know. I’m just complaining that they’re leaving lots of people out of that great communal feeling that we’re all laughing at the same time.