Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Governor King

There is an obvious starting point for my activist lifestyle.
Starting in 1973, a battle between Massachusetts Governor Edward King and sensible people was waged over whether a 5 cent surcharge on beverages sold in bottles and cans should be enacted, redeemable when those bottles and cans were returned for recycling. The legislature passed the bottle bill three times before finally over-riding the Governor's veto in 1981.
I remember the fierce arguments over the issue now some thirty years later.
After one of Governor King's successful vetoes in the late 1970's, I wrote the Governor with an impassioned argument comparing the relative beauty of Vermont's highway shoulders to those of Massachusetts.
Apparently, my argument did not win him over, a crushing blow to a tween who thinks he knows all the answers.
In fact, his letter in response indicated that he hadn't even heard my argument at all. His reply thanked me for supporting his veto of the bottle bill. I was upset, thinking that my letter was somewhere in his office, sitting in the wrong stack on the scales of justice.

At the beginning of this post, I said that there was an obvious starting point for my activist lifestyle. But honestly I'm not sure. Why did I choose to act at that moment in my life, in history, on that issue? What, in the subsequent years, kept that activist streak alive?
Or maybe, my activist life didn't start then at all, and writing Governor King was just a one-off thing that any kid might have done, foretelling nothing.

If you had asked 18 year old Bill, several years later, if he was an activist, he would have said "certainly not!" In my college essay, I went to great lengths to make it clear I was interested in the pursuit of knowledge, of truth, and that I had no interest in politics at all.

People had tried to explain the differences between Democrat and Republican to me, but since everyone seemed to describe a different set of differences, nothing stuck in my head. It was all too nebulous for me to make sense of.
I thought science was inherently good, math even better, and that the only troubles arose when politics was used to interpret science.
Boy did I have that backwards!

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