By Cynthia E. Stead for Cape Cod Today
When Tom Wolfe wrote about the Merry Pranksters in his book about hippie culture, â??The Electric Kool Aid Acid Testâ??, he talked about a mindset that the group had. They traveled around on an old school bus, and those who shared their mindset were â??on the busâ??; the rest of the world was â??off the busâ??.
This crossed my mind more than once as I went to the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) hearings held for the New England Region in Boston on July 6th.
I hadnâ??t been to a demonstration for a long timeâ?¦at least last year. But, when the bus pulled in, I realized I was destined to go once I saw the plate â??
We were all at the parking lot of the Wing School in Sandwich, one of the busses to go up to the hearing to demonstrate our support for the 102nd Massachusetts Air National Guard Base at Otis. By 7:30, we were ready to travel.
We were a pretty mixed group. Mark Forest, aide to Cong. Delahunt. Minos Gordy, head of the PACERS (Patriots Advocating Camp Edwards Restoration and Service), Dave Neal from the Barnstable Sheriff Office, Jim Liedell from Yarmouth Port, activist for Clean Power Now, Union guys and Bush supporters. Not a group that would ordinarily line up behind any one thing, but here we were all working together for the Base.
It was about 90 minutes to Boston to the Seaport Convention Center. On the bus, Mark Forest outlined our agenda, after making sure we all had our blue â??Save Otisâ?? shirt (when we arrived, we found that the Otis Fire Department had their own green shirts). Once there, we were directed into a pre-hearing conference. From that, we were to proceed upstairs to the main hearing room for our 11:15 hearing, and then back down to the bus for noon and our return to the Cape.
Then, we waited for the Federal and State delegations to arrive. There was much kibitzing as to how entrances and introductions would be handled â?? â??The Senator does thisâ?¦Well, not today, as the Congressman plans toâ?¦But the Governor will beâ?¦â?? and so on.
Finally, the lesser luminaries were lined up to be introduced by Mashpee Fire Chief George Baker â?? Senators Murray and Oâ??Leary, Reps. Gifford, Perry, Turkington, and Turner. Chuckie Green of Mashpee was there as a representative of the Boards of Selectmen of the 4 towns that the Base sits in. Rep. Patrick and Sheriff Cummings arrived later, caught behind an accident on the Southeast Expressway. It was then time for the Governor, Senators and Congressman to arrive.
First, Chuckie Green spoke on behalf of the towns, and then Sen. Murray on behalf of the Cape delegation. Cong. Delahunt then introduced the other speakers. Gov. Romney spoke clearly to the effort to correct oversights by the BRAC in evaluating Otis. Sen. Kerry spoke about is support for the base. Then came the real barnburner, as Sen. Kennedy gave a rousing speech to get us all enthused as we went up to the hearing. His was the best oratory of the day.
Up in the enormous conference hall, we all sat down and watched some of Connecticutâ??s testimony. Sen. Lieberman was making his pitch for the submarine bases at Groton, and made a very impassioned case.
Then, our Governor, Senators, and Congressmen stood and took their oath that their testimony would be accurate and truthful. The bulk of the testimony was offered by Col. Paul Worcester, and centered around the natural geographic advantages of the Base, the mission the Base had to intercept air traffic in the most heavily traveled air corridor on the east coast, and the true costs associated with the Base closure. It was informative, accurate, and unquestioned.
And â?? that was it. A few minutes later, we were back on the bus. During our testimony, the skies had opened up, and the roads going out of Boston were flooded, making us all grateful we werenâ??t driving. We were back to the Wing School by 3:30.
Youâ??ll read a great deal about the BRAC hearing over the next couple of days, and this is only an effort to convey what it was like to travel up there and try to keep our Base open and working for Cape Cod. The Base really has the good paying jobs weâ??d like to see more of on Cape, and the forces that hope it could be some kind of made over condo complex ignore the fact that the Base is still in the heart of a military installation. Our Coast Guard mission is threatened if the 102nd leaves, even our new jail will be impacted.
So â?? are you on the bus or off the bus?