Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Letter to Gordon Suber RE his article in the Manchester Union on the New Hampshire primary - Leave New Hampshire Alone:

Thank you Gordon – I think that TV show featuring Martin Sheen as President has it that he is from New Hampshire. What it is is that there is a primal or archetypal sense of what it implies or suggests somehow deep in the innermost layers of consciousness (where the ancestors live) to be American – and that is seen in the hills of New Hampshire – self reliance, independence, hard working, trusting in neighbors and ourselves, no chattering, no whining; get up and go to work - Americans who look to nature to find orientation and not to a shadow of Europe or to a vision of the Academy, but to themselves. As one who builds stone walls and plants trees for a living up here two hours north of Concord, I can assure you that the men and women I work with on a daily basis fit that bill. So when a “unique” candidate appears new on the American scene – General Clark or John McCain, for example, his or her first appeal to a primal cord will ring here – rightfully – and the rest of the country takes a special notice. We don’t really care that much about issues – they change with the times and grow on Central Park West (read Alfred Kazin’s “America” for a puzzling and spooky history of American ideas echoing in tragedy today around the world and how they grew from the hands of so very, very few and where they came from and how divorced from the heartland’s true and human sensibility the fate of the world sadly flows). We care about integrity and character. In a sense, we are so far away from the mainstream of the world and away from the vicissitudes of the world and their astonishing manifestations (the Senator from New York cryptically blocking passage of AIDS/HIV funding for New York City and San Francisco where the vast numbers of sick people live, the Representative from Texas urging religious warfare) – these things are often part of team building, or consensus building or political strategies of opposition and we don’t care about that either. And in the end these things come with the dust and go with the wind, as Woody Gunthrie said, and their life cycle and appeal is usually generational. The Man of Honor, the Woman of Substance, is called forth to save the day when the brittle argument of the apparatchiks shatters and the mischief unravels, and we reach first for her or him because that is all we really care about. We are the canaries in the coal mine sensing danger and calling forth those with the deeper nature and resources. My buddy Burt, whose father and grandfather plowed with horses up here on through the generations has never stepped outside this county except for military service. It was a big dilemma when one of his children recently got married in Philadelphia. I look to him for core values and solid and lasting sensibilities. It is true that the southernmost counties in the state might be considered “northern Massachusetts” because many move across the border to avoid paying Massachusetts taxes. In the last week of the New Hampshire primary this group rose out of nowhere and sent John Kerry up. But for the weeks and months before that that hard-core, old-time gnarly mountain Yankee nature did bring forth a primal American vision, felt most vividly in the coldest and most ornery mountain territory –Dixville Notch, where General Clark took almost all of the votes. It is possible to trust a person who has never milked a cow but it takes longer to know them. We in New Hampshire are not alone in this. West Virginia is like this as well, and it is a common saying up here that New Hampshire is a Southern state. So is Arkansas where I have kin and so are certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn. But every place is not. Thanks for the perspective. We look forward to your early return. Bernie Quigley, Haverhill, NH