Friday, June 26, 2015

The Four Things We Just Can't Talk About

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, June 26, 2015
By Bill Gouveia

            Guns, religion, race and politics. 

            Those are the modern day Four Horsemen.  The four things you simply can’t discuss rationally today in America.  The topics which need to be debated, that cry out for compromise, that involve the basic rights of each and every citizen of this country.

            Yet for some incomprehensible reason, we refuse to engage in meaningful discussion on these issues.  Most of us cling to our personal beliefs and positions on each of these volatile subjects, and decline to admit there may be other valid ones.  We make these things bigger problems.

            For example, take the recent tragic shooting in South Carolina.

            A young white supremacist with an arrest record walked into an historic African-American Church with a gun supposedly gifted to him by his father and shot and killed nine black people.  Captured shortly thereafter, he allegedly confessed he did so because he hated black people.  He believed they were taking over the country, and he wanted to bring back segregation.  He hoped his actions would start a “race war”.

            Grief and sorrow over the awful and violent act was felt almost universally.  But after that, reaction began to fall into sadly predictable examples.

            Some conservatives and Republicans, including a few currently planning to run for President, tried to ignore the obvious racist aspect of the attack.  They claimed it was not yet possible to know what actually motivated the shooter.  They ignored the obvious failure of gun control regulations to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of convicted criminals.

            Perhaps even more amazingly, they and others wondered out loud if this were in fact an “attack on faith” as Fox News and other media outlets suggested.  After all, the murders occurred in a church.  Perhaps this was an attack against Christians, they opined.

            They act in this manner because they cannot afford to insult or offend the conservative voters who they need in order to win their various primaries.  Moderate voters seldom vote in primaries of either major party.  Those tend to be dominated by the more extreme members of each group.

            And God forbid (oops, bad expression) that this overtly racist act be recognized for what is so clearly is.  Not even the direct admission of the accused racist murderer himself is enough to get them to do that.  Because, you see, a discussion on race does not help them politically.

            And they immediately move to absolve guns of any blame in this.  You can’t blame inanimate objects for murder, they note.  The attacker could have used a knife, or a rope, or a shovel, or almost anything else.  They are quite clear about this not being about guns.

            And again – they are totally wrong.

            Does anyone truly believe this was an attack on “faith”?  Is there the slightest bit of evidence to support that?

            This was absolutely a racist attack in a state that flies (for now) the Confederate Flag over its capitol.  It was allegedly perpetrated by a man wearing the flag of various Christian countries famous for their racist regimes.  And it was performed with a gun he never should have had.

            Would tougher gun laws have prevented him from obtaining this gun?  It’s possible, but unlikely.  Chances are he would have shot these people even if he was subjected to stricter regulations.

            But is that a reason not to have tougher laws?  When the murder rate goes up, do we stop passing laws because some are not following them?  Should we really just stop trying?

            And yes, he could have used a shovel.  But he didn’t.  Most mass murders use guns.  You can kill people much faster and more efficiently with guns.  That’s why you don’t need a license or a background check to own a shovel. 

            Liberals and Democrats share blame here.  They talk the talk on gun control, but are unwilling to take on the job of making it happen.  They also have to get reelected in their primaries. 

            But it’s not just our leaders.  As a people, we need to be tougher on guns.  We need to stop mixing religion and government.  We must address the rampant racism in our country. 

And we must learn that politics involves talking to other people, not just at them.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, June 19, 2015

This Dad and Grandpa Celebrates Father's Day

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, June 19, 2015

By Bill Gouveia

            This Sunday is Father’s Day.  It will be my 36th as a dad and my 8th as a grandfather. 

Yeah, I know – this is Father’s Day, not Grandfather’s Day.  But I don’t care.  Any excuse to brag about being a grandfather is a good one.  And these days, my physical appearance much more fits the elder role.

But I was Dad long before I was Grandpa, and that’s something in which I take great pride. 

The truth is being a grandfather is relatively easy.  You get to have a lot of the fun, and very little of the real responsibility.  You can break the rules with limited impunity, discipline is something you let the parents worry about, and “No” is a concept you treat with the same disdain you had for it as a kid.

Being a Dad is much different.  Sure, you get to have fun and enjoy those special moments with your children, creating memories that will last not only your lifetime but hopefully theirs as well.  But being a Dad (and in fact, being a parent today) is an awesome and heavy responsibility. 

I look back at the four generations of Dads I have known in my own family.  My grandfather was a hard-working immigrant who spent nearly a decade away from his family in Portugal before he could bring them to America.  He was a good man, but had a hard shell.  He was a farmer and worked in the maintenance crew at Wheaton College.  He commanded respect, and always received it from his children.

My Dad was the first of his family to go to college.  He inherited his father’s work ethic, often toiling at three different jobs while also going to school.  We knew growing up he loved us, but he was not exactly warm and fuzzy.  Late in his life, he would shake my hand whenever we saw each other.  I would embarrass him with a hug and kiss.

I was not dissimilar from them both when I entered the fatherhood fraternity, particularly regarding time spent providing financially.  I worked hard to try and give my kids the life they deserved, as well as the opportunity to go to college.  My pride at their graduations was boundless.  And thanks to my wife (the best parent I have ever met) I was at least somewhat visible and active in their lives growing up.

Today both my sons are dads.  And I watch in utter amazement and joy at how they have not only accepted the role, but made it their own.  They are more than just wonderful parents.  In my eyes they reflect everything a Dad should be, which at the risk of sounding sexist or prejudiced, is different from what a parent should be.

They are so involved in every aspect of the lives of their children. They are constantly in the schools, always know everything their kids did that day, and provide the best kind of example for those young minds.  Their patience makes me proud, while at the same time making me ashamed of the lack of same I often remember exhibiting back when they were young.

They both married strong women, true partners in their lives.  They have built families on a foundation of love, with the emphasis on all the right things.  They demonstrate strength when needed, gentleness when necessary, and are smart enough to recognize when each is called for. 

If you judge a Dad by how his children turn out, then I will get much more credit than I deserve.  My sons are awesome people, and sensational parents.  And there is no shaking hands when we get together.  We never let each other go without a hug and kiss.

“You’re never too old to kiss your father”, I told them at a very early age.  And they have never hesitated, even through those awkward and sensitive school years.

I have so many moments from being a dad that I treasure.  And the good news is – I’m not done collecting them. 

Aaron and Nate, thank you for learning from my mistakes and maybe picking up a rare good thing or two.  Happy Father’s Day to everyone, especially the two best Dads I know.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a proud Dad.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, June 15, 2015

This Is What Is Wrong With Politics Today

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, June 15, 2015
By Bill Gouveia

            If you want a perfect example of what is wrong with politics today, you need look no further than what happened this week when Governor Charlie Baker visited our area to attend a fundraiser for State Representative Betty Poirier (R-North Attleboro).


            Baker is a Republican.  Poirier supported him during the hotly-contested election this past fall.  In Massachusetts, Republican legislatures are almost as rare as Yankee fans.  As Governor, Baker has a vested interest in trying to help the GOP increase and at the very least maintain their numbers in both the House and Senate.


            So is there anything wrong or unusual with Gov. Baker helping to boost Rep. Poirier’s campaign coffers and already considerable popularity in her district?  Nope – nothing at all.  It is a standard tradition practiced by both major parties all the time.


            But the Massachusetts Democratic Party is apparently running out of things to complain about.  The party organization decided to criticize the Governor for attending the fundraiser based upon one political position (albeit an important one) where he and Poirier disagree – abortion and a woman’s right to choose.


            Poirier has never been shy about her opposition to legalized abortion, and has in the past both sponsored and supported legislation that would deny women that option.  But quite frankly, most of that was for show.  Chances of legislation like that succeeding here in the Bay State are about equal to my chances of making the Patriots practice squad.


            Pat Beaudry, a spokesperson for the party, claimed this week that by his visit Baker “is in fact supporting an agenda ostensibly counter to his own regarding choice.”  She went on to add that his “headlining Rep. Poirier’s event is a perfect example of the governor’s willingness to support Republicans of all stripes here in Massachusetts, regardless of his own publicly stated positions.”


            And that, ladies and gentlemen, is pure and unadulterated crap.


            Yours truly is no great fan of Betty Poirier as a legislator.  This space has often been critical of her performance and actions on a wide variety of fronts.  We are polar opposites in most of our political positions and beliefs.


            But her general position on that particular topic should have no bearing on Gov. Baker’s decision to support her.  And by trying to make it one, the Democratic State Party looks like the whiny bunch of liberal complainers the Republican State Party often makes them out to be.


            Poirier was absolutely correct when she said of the “controversy” that erupted as a result of the Governor’s visit:  “I guess there can’t be a lot of big news out there today.”


            Rep. Poirier has been elected and re-elected many times by the good people of her district.  While certainly conservative, she is reasonably representative of the general political philosophy of her constituents.  She is not so radically different that she should be cast as a pariah.


            Is this what state and national politics have to be about?  Must our elected leaders be required to only surround themselves with people who share their views?  Are both Governor Baker and Representative Poirier doing such a good job that Democrats are reduced to foolish complaining such as this?


            And let’s be clear.  This type of despicable tactic is practiced with great regularity by both major parties.  In fact, Republicans may even be better at it than Democrats.  Neither group holds the moral high ground here.


            But it’s getting old.


            Maybe we out here in the Sun Chronicle area just aren’t accustomed to the glare of the spotlight that accompanies high-ranking officials like the Governor as they venture out of our capitol city.  Could it be we (or at least this writer) are just “small-town” and don’t get how real politics work?


            If that is the case – and I don’t believe it for a minute – then we should wear that as a badge of honor.  Our local politics can be intense, personal, and sometimes just silly.  But a local leader who doesn’t establish close relationships with people holding different views usually doesn’t have much success.


              I understand state party officials get paid to politick.  But our officials give us enough reason to complain without having more invented for us.


            Neither Rep. Poirier not the Governor deserved the cheap shot.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, June 8, 2015

It's Official - I'm Not Running for President

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, June 8, 2015.

BY BILL GOUVEIA FOR THE SUN CHRONICLE The Sun Chronicle                        
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to make an important announcement, right here on these very pages.
After much thought and careful consideration, I have officially decided I will not be a candidate for the Republican nomination for the President of the United States.
I may well be the first person to actually NOT seek the GOP nomination. I wanted to get this momentous decision out there before the primaries - whenever they are. It was not a conclusion I reached lightly. I fully understand the impact my choice may have on the thousands of others considering throwing their hats into the ring.
To all those who contacted me about being my running mate (and most of those were after last call at the local pub), I apologize for denying you the opportunity of a lifetime. Those who contributed to my campaign in the pre-announcement stage will have their donations returned as soon as I get change for that $5 bill.
Many factors influenced my surprise decision, not the least of which is I am a lifelong Democrat.
I have few actual qualifications for the job itself, which gives me a lot in common with the announced candidates. And most importantly, I am not a member of Congress either recently or currently, perhaps my biggest advantage had I run.
I had briefly considered seeking the Democratic nomination, but Hillary told me I couldn't. I thought perhaps Bernie Sanders or Lincoln Chafee might consider me for the second spot on the ticket, but clearly I was too high-profile for them. And the Republican field seemed so much more inviting.
They are from states like Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky. There are also candidates from states located north of the Mason-Dixon Line like New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
I understand I would have had to make myself stand out from the crowded field had I stayed in the GOP fight. I am often confused with Chris Christie at first sight, but our political positions are not really similar. Besides, at least I root for the football team actually from my area. I guess since Christie is not one of the GOP stars from Texas, he needed to find another way to attract votes from the Lone Star state.
Like most of the Republican candidates I would have been running against, I am extremely conservative. I almost never eat spicy food, and seldom dress in loud colors. I am patriotic, though I'm not as intent as the Republicans on telling everyone just how patriotic. I am not a fan of the Patriot Act, but I did search my kids' rooms without a warrant and listen to some of their phone conversations when they were growing up.
And like that group of politicians, I am against extremism. I am totally against extremism. I mean, without exception. My opposition to extremism is so extreme that my FBI file is actually available at the public library. I once participated in a protest against my own decision because I thought I went too far.
I plan to wait for the shockwaves generated by my stunning choice to subside before announcing the next step in my grand plan. By then, I'm sure I will actually have a grand plan. I had considered making the rounds of the late-night talk shows to boost my national visibility, but have discovered I really can't stay up that late anymore.
For those of you who are wondering, I will indeed make myself available as a highly-paid guest speaker on the banquet circuit. I would tell you to have your people call my people, but frankly I'm not sure I have any people, so that could be awkward.
I have been contacted about running for statewide office, but unfortunately I don't live in any of the states where there are currently vacancies.
In the meantime, I stand ready to serve as an adviser for any of the Republican candidates who might be looking for good advice. I hope that through my decision to spare them the agony of certain defeat, they find some peace of mind and the strength to go on.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.