Benjamin F. Baker [Politics]

It's always easier to hide behind the people

And who the hell is this guy Benjamin F. Baker* anyway?

Last night, one by one, the Selectmen of Dennis recounted their discomfort at having to hear constituents voice their opposition to the naming of the Bass River Bridge for US Marine Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos.  None of the Selectmen at meeting actually said they were against the naming personally. But yet they voted to send a letter to the legislature asking them not to pass the bill to re-name the bridge.

At the Selectmens meeting, Representative Cleon Turner (D-Dennis), who was politically singed by the same effort a couple of years ago, said he was opposing it by also invoking the will of the people.

In politics, it's always easier to hide behind the people.

Supporters of the effort to name the bridge in honor of a fallen soldier knew that this attempt, like the previous one, was not going to be easy. If it was going to be easy, they would have had Rep. Turner file the bill again. As it is, Rep. Demetrius Atsalis, (D-Yarmouth) agreed to file it for the petitioners, knowing full well that it would be harder to do the right thing.

At the Selectmens meeting, two private citizens voiced the same opinion, that it was not appropriate to name the bridge after this young man, while suggesting instead that the bridge be named after Dennis' own Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, whom they did not mention by name.

In politics, it's always easier to be parochial. 

The selectmen were cautioned by another public official that taking a vote without giving all the residents an opportunity to speak to the naming before they voted, would only alienate supporters of the bill.  That’s why the legislature holds public hearings on bills.

Instead they chose to invoke their personal prerogative on behalf of the whole of the town.  It’s easier to take a vote when there is no one in the room except for a selected few to hide behind. 

In politics, it's always easier to take the path of least resistance. 

Bass River does not have a Yarmouth bridge or a Dennis bridge or a DY bridge. The bridge doesn’t belong to either or both towns or its residents.  It belongs to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  As such, all Massachusetts citizens have a right to exercise an opinion on naming the bridge, which is why the matter rests with the state’s legislature.

Had there been a genuine interest in honoring another war hero by re-naming this bridge for him, that bill would have been proposed many years ago. The time for that came and passed and as a result very few in will ever know the name of  Benjamin F. Baker.*  The proponents of adding the name US Marine Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos to the Bass River Bridge want to make sure that does not happen again.

In the end, the Selectmen of Dennis voted to send the Committee on Transportation a letter stating that the Town of Dennis opposes re-naming of the Bass River Bridge.

In politics, its always easier to be against something.

It may not come to pass that this bridge is named for this particular soldier, but the Selectmen of Dennis have made sure that it will never be named for any individual by acting in the manner that they did on behalf of a few residents of the town who do not support the effort.

Representative Turner will instead turn his attention to naming a state highway overpass after the native son.

*Benjamin F. Baker was born in 1862 at Dennis Port. He served in the Spanish-American War on board USS Nashville. On May 11, 1898, while serving as a Coxswain, he was one of several men who took part in a boat expedition that cut the underwater telegraph cable off Cienfuegos, Cuba. For his "extraordinary bravery and coolness" under enemy fire during this operation, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He reportedly later attained the rank of Chief Master-at-Arms. Benjamin F. Baker died in 1927 at Dennis Port, and was buried at Swan Lake Cemetery. (wikipedia)

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