I am fond, of course, of touting and evangelizing the benefits of living in a close community in which people share and look out for each other and work together to make life better.
All of this makes life happier. Several studies have borne out the health benefits of being part of close and caring community. No surprise to me; it all makes sense.
In a column I wrote early last summer, I discussed the drawbacks, but mostly I discussed the benefits, of living in a small town – a town such as Easton, which has a lot of a small town feel, even if it isn’t such of a small town anymore.
In the column, I talked about the town of Roseto, PA, and a rigorous academic study that was done on the town to find out why its population was so healthy and long-lived despite so many of its residents smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and not exercising much. What the study concluded is the extraordinary value of friendship and community, which Roseto had in abundance.
Strong community, such as we know here in Easton, strengthens and nurtures in many ways, including helping us get beyond political divisions and differences in political leanings and sympathies.
Today, in our 24/7 news cycle, with us getting hit around the clock with opinion and punditry and argument – a good portion of it distributed and transmitted loudly and with mean words – if one does not know caring community, then one can become a very bitter, caustic and on-the-edge person.
Democratic Party affiliation in Massachusetts holds a 34 percent advantage over Republican Party advantage here, making our state the second most Democratic stronghold in the union behind Rhode Island, in which the Democratic Party advantage is 37 percent. (In the District of Columbia, the Democratic advantage is 75 percent.)
Easton, in this dark blue state, is a bit of an aberration: we tilt slightly, ever so slightly, to the right and Republican. Of course, for a good portion of the 1900s, Easton was staunchly Republican; yes, this being the town in which, in the 1960 presidential election, Richard Nixon beat Massachusetts native son, John F. Kennedy, almost 3 to 1.
In the 2008 presidential election, in Massachusetts, Barack Obama blew out John McCain, 62 percent to 36 percent. In Easton, Obama’s win was thin, 6078 to 5644, a difference of a little more than 1.5 percent.
In the 2010 general election in Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, a Democrat, was reelected governor with 47.94 percent of the vote.
Republican Charlie Baker finished in second with 41.59 percent of the vote, and in third place, with 7.95 percent of the vote, was Tim Cahill, an Independent.
Interestingly, in that gubernatorial race, Charlie Baker won Easton with 4855 votes to 3302 for Patrick and 705 for Cahill. Among these top three finishers, Baker won almost 55 percent of the vote in Easton.
In the 2010 special election here to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated with the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, in which Scott Brown, a Republican, shocked Martha Coakley, a Democrat, winning the seat with 52 percent of the vote to Coakley’s 47 percent, Brown beat Coakley in Easton with 64 percent of the vote, garnering 5931 votes to his opponent’s 3350.
So, again, maybe a slight leaning to the right, here in Easton. But for all intents and purposes we are split fairly down the middle in terms of partyaffiliation and sympathies.
If you are at an Oliver Ames High School basketball or football or hockey or soccer game, the person on your right or left is almost as likely to be a Democrat or a Republican. If you are volunteering at a car wash in Easton, you are almost just as likely to be soaping a car with a Democrat as you are a Republican.
Our community and civic groups in Easton, of which there are many vibrant and excellent ones, are made up of Democrats and Republicans.
And what is so nice in a town in which there is so much dedicated community involvement and so much volunteerism is that politics does not dominate and steer our lives for long or that profoundly. We have so much more to contend and concern ourselves with. We have so much more that occupies our minds and fulfills our lives.
In her column in this past weekend's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote about the life, and the death last week, of conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart. She wrote about how she had criticized him in a column. Noonan, a conservative herself, invoked this incident to argue and commend that we can’t wallow too long talking about politics, or allowing politics to take center stage in our life, or we become unpleasant people.
In the column, Noonan wrote, “I had criticized Andrew last year in a column. A few weeks ago we bumped into each other at an airport, arranged to sit together on the plane, spoke our peace, hashed it through, and wound up laughing.”
In fact, it was Noonan’s column that inspired the focus of this column you are reading now.
“We were not built to be all about politics,” Noonan wrote later in the column. “Empires rise and fall, nations come and go, but the man who poured your coffee this morning is eternal, because his soul is eternal. That’s C.S. Lewis. I don’t know if Andrew was a religious person or a believer, but I know he respected faith, understood it, felt protective of it. For which good on you, Andrew, and thanks. Rest in peace.”
Noonan is so right. We are not built to be all about politics because we have souls.
In Easton, this wonderful and tight knit community, this community with so many people giving so much to so many causes and programs, it is blessedly easy to get beyond Democrat and Republican.
In Easton, it is blessedly easy to go beyond politics and focus on and enrich the souls of others and of ourselves.