To Mayor Ruberto, with respect

Ripped from the headlines “My time has come” — Ruberto says he will not run again: I’ll be straight with you — most of the time when politicians come and go I don’t really care. But when Pittsfield Mayor Jimmy Ruberto announced that he would not run again, I was really saddened.

In the end, the whole thing is a love story. The man’s love for his late wife, Ellen, is legendary. We hear that he asked friends who invite him to dinner not to invite available women. His loyalty and love for his precious Ellen is palpable.

Every time I talk to him, her name comes up. When he told everyone that he was leaving his position as mayor, he said that he had some healing to do. In that, any sensitive, decent human being will wish him well. With Ruberto, it was never about self -aggrandizement. It was about doing the people’s work and putting them first. Pittsfield can be a mean city. Its politics are often reduced to a sort of Hatfield and McCoy type of feud.

Ruberto has run the city as well as anyone could have. He was professional, took a business approach, nurtured the arts and brought people together, except, of course, for the mean ones who will never have a positive thought about anyone. These are the folks who will take to the anonymous blogs, spewing their hatred and waiting for GE to come back, which, of course, is never going to happen. In fact, it is something that never should happen. As the old saying goes, “Fool me once… ”

I hope Jim Ruberto is not making a mistake. There have been days this winter when I have thought that sitting under a palm tree somewhere might not be a bad idea. Then I figure I’d probably end up looking at my belly button saying, “Something isn’t right here.”

If you love your work, and clearly Ruberto loved his, that work is one of the best of human tonics. The people of Pittsfield and of all the Berkshires owe Jim Ruberto big time. He kept himself above the small time, cheap political fray. He proved that Pittsfield was governable and that politicians could be grown-ups. Jim Ruberto is a man you can truly admire. I know that I do. I wish him only the best.

Civility reigns in the house: So, after one of the saddest moments in American history, the Tucson tragedy, Congress debated the health care situation with the Republicans calling for repeal of the bill. This comes along with Roger Ailes of Fox, telling people that he had told his on-air people to rein it in.

Everybody understands just how powerful strong words can be, particularly to a sub-group of mentally unstable people. As for Ailes and his employees, if he told them to put a sock in it, one can only imagine that he had told them earlier to let loose. Of course, violence can be committed with a gun or with a bill in the Congress. Telling people that their children can’t have health care or a school lunch is a violent act. One can easily put themselves into the mindset of a really troubled maniac who hears the tenor of our American conversations and gets out a gun.

On the other hand, think about it. What is really going on here? First, the radical right ignites the fire and then they call for putting it out. Kind of reminds me of a story I heard years ago of a firefighter who, it turns out, was setting the fires that he was responding to.

Make no mistake about it: I can’t think of a single liberal-left commentator who begins to approach the Fox-Palin-Limbaugh-Hannity-Beck style of attack.

We are talking about the so-called “birthers” who keep putting out the line that President Obama wasn’t born in this country and the same people who insist that there is no global warming. They may have gone too far this time.

They can read the polls and they may be temporarily on the run, but their whole raison d’etre is their angry, “feed them red meat” approach. If they don’t do it, someone else will and if that happens, their ratings go down and they are out of work.

Right now they are calling for civil debate, but it may well be that the last thing they want is honest civil discourse. In other words, “Everyone shut up and take what you get.”

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 1/22/11

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