Friday, October 13, 2017

It's Been Ten Years Of Columns - Thanks!

GOUVEIA: Time flies when you're on deadline

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As I was preparing to begin today’s column, it occurred to me I had been filling this space for quite some time now.
Actually, it was 10 years ago today my first opinion column appeared in The Sun Chronicle. Combine that with the fact today is Friday the 13th, and you can make a strong case you poor readers just can’t catch a break.
So on the auspicious occasion of completing one full decade of columns (important only to me), I thought I would pause for a moment and say thanks to all who have made it possible for me to have this regular conversation with folks all across our wide readership area.
When I started doing this, Mike Kirby was the editor. Thanks to him for bringing me onboard here. George W. Bush was president (boy, does that now seem so long ago). The Red Sox were about to win the World Series, the Patriots were beginning an undefeated regular season culminating in a crushing Super Bowl loss, and the Celtics were on their way to their 17th championship.
That first column a decade ago was about an upcoming recall election in Mansfield. Most that have followed have been about local government and politics because that is something I have great experience with and enjoy. Some columns have been positive, a lot have been critical, and more than a few simply sought to inspire discussion and shine a spotlight on local government.
Sometimes I veer off into national or statewide issues. This has led to people calling me a “leftist” columnist, something that always makes me chuckle. While I’ve certainly never hidden my political inclinations or opinions, I don’t consider myself to be a disciple of any particular ideology. I write about things that interest me, and I express my opinion on them.
I don’t do that to plug anything, or advance a certain side, or promote individuals or philosophies. I do it because it is what I am supposed to do. I write about what I think is important. And I don’t generally hold back. I’ve found that an un-opinionated opinion columnist just isn’t very interesting.
But perhaps my favorite columns are the ones I have written about people, friends and family. They are the columns I go back and read because they make me smile, sometimes make me cry, but always make me reflect.
My two sons and their families might have been mentioned a few times. I had no grandchildren when I started writing this column in 2007. I now have five. My oldest grandchild Will (have I mentioned his name is William? Yes, I said it again) is now 9. He is followed by Avery (5), Sammy (4), Addison (2) and Tommy (2). I talk about them here often, and my wife and I love them more than life itself.
Ah, my wife. She too has been the subject of a few columns, and has been a great sport about them. She is not only often my inspiration to write, but serves as my editor and sounding board. Almost every column is read to her before it is submitted, and her intelligence and ability to be honest with me has made me a better writer. Thank you, my love.
I’ve written about many special people over the years — my former teacher Al Nuttall, my late friend Fred Burchill, and a slew of other individuals including politicians, local officials, and just regular folks who have touched my life. I hope you enjoyed those too.
And of course, none one of this would be possible without you – the readers of the Sun Chronicle and this space.
I’ve gotten to speak and communicate with many of you over the last 10 years. I’ve gotten some touching handwritten notes, some very nice emails, and a lot of intelligent criticism – along with some not-so-nice stuff. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
So thanks for reading me for a complete decade. I treat the ability to reach out to you twice every week as a privilege, and hope our conversations continue for a long time. You‘ll always get from me the only thing I can offer – my honest opinion.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be reached at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Yes - It Is Time To Talk About Gun Control

GOUVEIA: On guns, the fault is in ourselves

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If you are against toughening gun control laws — you’re wrong. And you’re part of the problem. And people are dying in part because of you. But I’ve come to realize, they are also dying in part because of me.
That’s the sad, unvarnished, undeniable truth. It is way past time those who have been arguing for tighter gun control laws stop beating around the bush on this explosive political subject. You are either for tougher gun control, or you are tacitly enabling mass murders to gun down innocent people. There is no in-between position.
I know, here it comes. Some deranged idiot in Las Vegas goes crazy with a bunch of guns, innocent people die, and “liberals” go nuts blaming the guns. Same stuff people like me spouted after Newtown, or after Orlando, or after (fill in the blank with one of so many shootings that might have been stopped with tougher gun laws). Blah, blah, blah – spouting left-wing rhetoric, trying to come after our guns and eliminate the Second Amendment.
But it’s not the Second Amendment that needs to be eliminated. It’s the incorrect, blind, narrow-minded thinking of those who believe any restrictions on any guns is the first step towards a total ban. How many more have to needlessly and senselessly die to support that misguided viewpoint?
The argument that guns and gun owners are under attack by the government or anyone else is a myth put forth by the powerful NRA and other gun lobbying groups to instill fear in good Americans. It’s not true, but it’s tremendously effective. It makes them appear to be defending the American people instead of putting the profits of gun-related businesses and industries ahead of the safety of those same Americans.
While leaving the Second Amendment intact, gun control advocates and other Americans should be joining forces to declare an all-out war in favor of common-sense gun control laws. Those who stand in the way of that should be ashamed, and their political opposition overrun.
Spare me the insane argument that more gun control is useless and ineffective. No one should have the right to own weapons that shoot incredible amounts of bullets in a short amount of time. Also spare me your definitions — automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, assault weapons. You have hidden behind these rigged definitions for decades now, trying to complicate what is a relatively simple issue.
Keep your personal protection hand gun. Keep your hunting rifles. You have a perfect right to them. I don’t want them.
But it’s just too bad if you have to go through a tougher process to get guns licensed. If your inconvenience results in just one less funeral, one fewer family grieving due to gun violence, that’s a good thing.
Outside of the military and law enforcement, people in this country don’t need or have a right to own weapons that can kill hundreds in seconds. They should not be able to legally buy large ammo magazines. Your alleged right to do so does not trump (no pun intended) the right of all Americans to live safely.
Gun proponents have run a masterful political strategy over the years. They have successfully made a lot of people believe guns equal freedom. They don’t.
Guns are what we sometimes have to use to fight for our freedom. But weapons like those used in Las Vegas belong in the hands of our soldiers and police, not in our neighborhoods or homes.
However, I’m done blaming gun owners and the NRA for the lack of intelligent gun control laws. It’s not their fault. It’s our fault.
We, the people who say we want it, who give it lip service, but aren’t committed enough to make it happen.
Gun advocates have gotten the job done. They have successfully dominated the political landscape and influenced both the lawmakers and the laws. They have succeeded — and we have failed.
That has to change.
We who are so outraged have to become more effective.
We must not only speak the truth, but make it impossible to ignore.
No, I’m not exactly sure how we do that. But I’ll be damned if I wait for more dead bodies before trying.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be reached at billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Trump's Not Crazy - Just Hateful

GOUVEIA: Not crazy, just hateful

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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 billsinsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Good-bye To Norton's Own Fred Burchill...

GOUVEIA: A legacy of love and devotion

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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 billsinsidelook@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.