AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
There was a lot of talk this past week about how President Donald Trump might be more than a little unhinged. People questioned his mental health, and his fitness to hold the country’s highest office. By the way, those are two completely different things.
I am no expert on mental health issues, but don’t believe our president is mentally unbalanced. It seems to me he generally knows exactly what he is doing, even if he doesn’t always carefully consider the consequences.
No, Donald Trump appears quite sane to me. His remarks and actions and inconsistencies seem to come not from any mental health issues, but instead from one fairly obvious and demonstrable fact.
This president is just not a good person. He’s pretty much a miserable human being.
Do I say that for political reasons? No, although I understand it will be viewed that way. After all, I am clearly a Democrat, and President Trump is clearly … well, he’s somewhat of a … well, I’m not sure exactly where he fits on the political spectrum. But suffice to say, I disagree with him on most things political.
But it is not his politics that bring me to say what kind of person the president appears to be. Rather it is his words, actions and deeds.
It is his use of hate to inspire Americans to follow him and support his political goals. President Trump is the most hateful and fear-mongering president in United States history.
One day he speaks on how “this administration and this movement is built upon love,” and proclaims “a wound to one American is a wound upon all Americans.” He calls himself a “unifier,” and promises to bring us all together as “a team.”
Yet the next day he lashes out at those who dare oppose him. He calls American media members “sick people,” “dishonest people,” “terrible people,” and questions their patriotism and loyalty to their country. He never misses an opportunity to attack those he dislikes, but constantly passes on opportunities to be compassionate and level-headed in respecting those with differing points of view.
Instead of working on the many problems facing this nation, President Trump held a campaign rally last week — nearly 3-1/2 years before his possible re-election. He held it in Arizona, the home state of Sen. John McCain — war hero, senate veteran, former Republican presidential candidate, and someone currently fighting for his very life against brain cancer.
Yet not once did this president acknowledge the service of Sen. McCain, or wish him well in his fight against the deadly disease. However, he did (without mentioning his name) point out McCain voted against a recent healthcare bill favored by the president. He made a huge deal out of that, waving his arms and inciting supporters. He told Arizona residents to “talk to their senator”.
I understand the president is a leader, not a good-will ambassador. But it is stupid – not to mention ignorant – to do what he did to John McCain without also wishing him well in his health battle. And if you support the president in that regard, then I would apply those same descriptions to you.
You cannot talk about “a wound to one American is a wound to all Americans” and then walk around inflicting wounds upon many Americans and expect to maintain a shred of true credibility.
You can disagree with journalists without calling them stupid, dishonest, or questioning their commitment to their country. They, too, are Americans, and you represent them just as much as anyone else.
The president can’t rail against hate and bigotry and prejudice one day, and then pardon a racist sheriff convicted by a court of conducting racial profiling the next, without looking bigoted and/or biased. His blatant disrespect for the judicial branch of government creates a constitutional crisis. His attack on transgender members of our military just reinforces that appearance.
And his pardon of the convicted sheriff, Joe Arpaio, sends a message to loyalists considering testifying in the Russia probe: “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.”
No, I don’t believe this president is crazy. I just believe he has shown himself to be dangerously self-absorbed, uncaring, and not a good person.
And frankly, I’m not sure which is worse.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
Norton lost one of its most honorable and dedicated citizens this week. Fred Burchill, one of the toughest yet most gentle people I have ever known, passed away Sunday night. He was 86 years old.
He was not a politician. He was not famous. The town’s baseball complex is named after his late son Lee, but Fred did not like being noticed.
Still, he leaves behind a legacy of love and devotion to family unmatched in my somewhat limited knowledge. His is a story that must never be forgotten. He is a true Norton legend, and legends must never be allowed to die.
By way of explaining to you the importance and dignity of this man, I’d like to share a slightly edited version of something I wrote more than ten years ago in a now-defunct publication. It was penned to mark one important occasion, but has at least as much meaning today.
This is from 2006:
“As I stood on the turf of Robert Adams Field at Norton High School last Friday night, it suddenly seemed like 1972 again.
Looking around, I could see old friend Duke Zumalt snapping the ball to old friend Lee Burchill. Those two kids now rest near each other in Timothy Plain cemetery, no doubt discussing those old games.
We were gathered to retire the number 14 of Lee, the former NHS quarterback who was tragically shot in his senior year of 1972. He became a quadriplegic, forever altering his life and the lives of those who loved him.
Lee would live for nine more years. Despite the pain and suffering he endured, he also got to experience an absolutely amazing amount of love and support from his family and friends.
Although we were there to honor Lee and his memory, I could not help but think this night perhaps belonged even more to his father, Fred Burchill. And that it was long overdue.
Fred Burchill grew up in the city outside Boston, where he was an excellent student. He married the beautiful Rita, and they moved to Norton to raise their two sons, Lee and Joe.
Fred drove truck for a living, something he would do faithfully for 40 years. Life was good and normal – until October 14, 1972 when it changed forever.
Fred and Rita totally uprooted their lives and home to care for their oldest son, rather than place him in an institution. They never considered it a sacrifice.
Because of the love and care they provided, Lee was able to live nine fruitful years. They treated him as just one of their kids, rather than a quadriplegic. That enabled him to flourish and survive.
Caring for Lee took a lot out of his devoted parents, and while his death deeply affected them both, it had a devastating effect on Rita. Years after her oldest passed on, cancer would claim Rita’s life, leaving just Fred and Joe.
But Joe was in poor health, as this incredible family continued to be given all they could handle. When Joe needed a kidney to survive, he had to look no further than his father. Fred gave him that kidney without a second thought, and that gave Joe valuable time with his children Shawn and Vanessa before he also passed away.
That left Fred in the unnatural position of having survived both his children. That might have destroyed a lesser man, but not Fred Burchill.
Fred continues to live in Norton today because it is his home. He admits to sometimes asking why he was left here, the sole surviving member of his immediate family. But then he looks at his grandchildren and extended family, and has his answer.
Late last Friday night, Fred said he thinks he was also left here this long so he could participate in the meaningful ceremony for his son Lee. He was amazed that 25 years after Lee’s death, people still remember -- and care.
My own Dad passed away this year, and he can never be replaced. But if I had to choose someone else I’d want to be my dad, Fred Burchill would be at the top of my list.
If Fred Burchill had a number, it would be retired next to that of his son.”
Norton lost a piece of its soul this week. But the legend of Fred Burchill will live on.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
This column was originally published in the Sun Chronicle on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.
GOUVEIA: Trump's against immigration, legal and otherwise
For years now, Donald Trump and others have rightfully railed about the dangers of illegal immigration, pointing out the harm it does and how unfair it is to the people who went through the difficult process to come here legally.
But now it has become clear Trump and certain “leaders” in Washington are not just against illegal immigration, but any kind of immigration.
President Trump recently endorsed a bill filed by two senators that would cut in half the number of people allowed to legally immigrate to the United States each year. The bill would introduce a “points system” that would control who is allowed in, and who is kept out.
In short, it would require those seeking to come here to already speak English. It would greatly favor those with skills and special distinctions. It would greatly reduce the number of family members those already here could bring over on visas.
For example, the spouse of someone here on a “Green Card” would still be allowed to join their partner along with their minor children. But grown children, siblings, even grandparents? They would be severely restricted.
It is the most anti-immigrant, anti-people, anti-family piece of legislation favored by a US President in my lifetime. It spits in the face of the America I was brought up to know and love, as well the families of those immigrants who built this country.
The President says the proposed bill will prevent legal immigrants from collecting welfare for the first five years. He apparently does not know that is already the case under the existing law. But let’s not allow facts to override politics, right?
My grandfather came to this country from Madeira. He did not speak English. He had no particular skill set other than a desire to support his family, better their lives, and become an American. If the rules President Trump favors were in existence then, it is unlikely he could have accomplished any of those things.
He worked here for years to afford to bring his family over. Several of his children eventually served in the US military. One grew up to run a successful neighborhood store for decades.
Another – my father – did not speak English when he started school in Norton. But he completed four years of high school in three years, joined the army, served in Korea, put himself through college, started a family, and became a CPA and senior vice president for the largest bank in New England.
Not bad for people who came here unable to speak the language, with no special skills. But President Trump would have kept them out.
When we needed immigrants in America to do jobs we could not or would not do, we portrayed ourselves as the shining beacon of freedom in the world. They helped us fill the “low-skilled” labor jobs which to this day remain critical to the success of this nation. In return, we gave them the freedom to be themselves and become Americans.
Now we accuse them of “taking” jobs from Americans. We blame them for low wages. That “shining beacon” of freedom is more like the blinking light of a motion detector alarm, warning us someone is where we don’t want them to be.
This pompous, arrogant, ignorant President is harnessing hatred for political purposes. He only wants immigrants if they conform to what he and those like him think they should be.
The people who immigrate here legally are an asset Mr. President, not a liability. We need more like them, and quite frankly — fewer with your prejudice and hatred and narrow-minded view of the world.
I write this to honor my grandparents, my uncles and aunts, and my father. They never stepped away from their Portuguese heritage, but still became true Americans. Donald Trump and those sponsoring this awful bill cannot seem to understand that. Or even worse — just don’t give a damn.
But those words on the Statue of Liberty still speak to us today:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me … Perhaps President Trump will add to the plaque: “But only if they are highly-skilled and speak English”.
Kind of gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and proud son of a legal immigrant. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
State representative and mayoral candidate Paul Heroux has a tough fight coming up this fall when he takes on three strong candidates vying to become the next mayor of Attleboro. One happens to be seven-term incumbent Mayor Kevin Dumas, and some are hoping for an exciting final election between these two proven politicians.
But so far in the very early stages of what some believe will be a particularly intense and nasty campaign, Heroux’s biggest problem has not been the mayor or his other worthy opponents. It has been himself.
Unless he starts concentrating a bit more on not figuratively shooting himself in the foot, Heroux, D-Attleboro, might just find himself continuing to hold on to his current job, where he has been a solid representative for his district.
Running for mayor in Attleboro is a bit different than running for the state Legislature. In fact, running for local office is a whole different ballgame than seeking a state legislative seat. While in this case the constituency is largely the same, the attention paid and the expectations demanded from the two positions are much different.
Heroux is particularly good at constituent service, and gets high marks from most for quickly responding to issues and problems brought to him by voters and citizens in his district. But the spotlight fixed on the mayor’s office is brighter and more intense locally than that focused on the person representing the Second Bristol District on Beacon Hill.
Heroux has already had an unfortunate personal situation come up during the campaign, an inadvertent posting he made on Facebook. It was an innocent error, and should not make anyone less likely to vote for him. But you have to be careful in the age of social media.
Now Heroux has made headlines by walking out of an appearance with local radio talk host Dave Kane. After apparently accepting an invitation to appear with the often controversial Kane, Heroux stormed out in anger before the interview was complete.
Kane was tough on the candidate, referring to him as a “genius” and constantly interrupting him. At one point Heroux warned that if the interruptions continued, he would walk out. Kane replied that the silence would be an improvement. So Heroux did exit, and allegedly called Kane a “jerk” while doing so.
In today’s national political climate, this is small potatoes. President Trump dishes out worse than that before breakfast, and has it returned before lunch.
But the standards are different on the local level. With few exceptions, if you can’t take the heat – well, you have to find another room to inhabit.
Heroux had to know, or should have known, the type of environment he was walking into. And he had to be – or should have been – totally prepared to deal with the situation.
Was Kane out of line? Most would agree he was. It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time, by his own admission. But the radio host is not a candidate. He is not seeking to represent the people who listen to him. They are free to turn the dial (do people still actually “turn” dials anymore?) or shut him off.
Local officials meet with frustrated and angry constituents almost every day. They must deal with a skeptical press and aggressive media types. When they accept the burden of office, they quickly learn one thing they cannot do (without resigning) is walk away in anger. It is their job to deal with problems, not storm away from them.
Kane threw out the bait, and Heroux bit hard. While his “toughness” may have made some supporters happy, it did little to help win over undecided voters. It was unprofessional, especially coming from someone who generally personifies professionalism.
Had he simply said “Mr. Kane, you are not letting me answer your questions. Thanks for the opportunity, but I prefer an actual conversation” and left without making the “jerk” comment, it would have been a much different situation.
Heroux deserves credit just for going on the show. But losing your cool on a radio talk show is not a great start to a possible mayoral tenure.
It was exactly the kind of attention a radio host loves, but a potential mayor doesn’t need.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook
Regardless of what you think of President Donald Trump and the accomplishments (or lack of same) of his administration during his short time in office, one thing is undeniably true and evident: Donald Trump has changed the way government and a free press relate with one another and with the American people.
Whether the changes are good or bad, constructive or destructive, helpful or hurtful to the country — there is no doubt whatsoever they have occurred. And they may still only be the beginning, with deeper and more fundamental changes possibly still ahead.
Yeah, I know — that sounds like a lot of scary talk for political purposes. But it’s not.
It is instead a clear truth Americans see for themselves every day. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this situation is that as we are exposed to it more and more on a daily basis, we may be starting to accept it as normal. It is becoming the new standard for both journalism and government.
What am I talking about? It’s pretty simple.
The traditional role of the media in general has been challenged by government at the highest level. With considerable help from the media itself, the Trump administration has in just six months managed to weaken and limit the American ideal of a free and independent press in an unprecedented manner.
Forget the fact Trump has had exactly one — one — individual press conference during his first six months. That is unusual when you consider he has held at least two actual campaign rallies for the 2020 election in that same time. But it is only part of a bigger problem.
Trump’s White House has severely limited the daily press briefing, where much of the news about our government comes from. They have held fewer of them, refused to allow cameras at many of them, and limited access with threats to completely cut off various media and newspapers who offend them.
They have elevated the status of friendly websites and bloggers at the expense of actual journalistic entities. They have “punished” various media by diminishing their access and ability to ask questions.
And of course, the president in particular has branded everything he does not like or agree with as “Fake News.” There has been a clear strategy of winning the day by damaging the people who — in his mind — can harm him. He doesn’t bother with facts. He and his administration are always in attack mode.
This has caused a similar reaction in the media itself. Facing a government that seemingly has no shame and no need to back up what it says, television and newspapers are having to change their ways. In doing so, they are simultaneously strengthening and weakening their adherence to the fundamentals of reporting and opining. And frankly, I don’t think they have yet figured out exactly what to do.
While the government and the presidency certainly have rules that should be followed, this is different. This administration doesn’t play by rules — it makes new ones. And in the ongoing battle between the Trump administration and the American media, one thing is clear — the Trump administration is winning.
Donald Trump has used the media like no other candidate in our history. He sucked them into covering his every breath as a candidate, when frankly the attention was not deserved. He used them when he needed them, and cast them out when he did not.
When the press points out some of the crazy things he does or says (sorry folks, he does say and do crazy things), he claims he is being attacked. He finds those who will curry his favor and elevates their status. He can do this because, in his own words, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
The government is now effectively bypassing the American public by pretending they are only bypassing the press and the media. And they are doing it in such a way that a sizable segment of the public is praising them for it.
The pure genius of it would be quite admirable, if not for the fact it threatens the very principles upon which this country was built.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.