Op­ti­mism, cyn­i­cism and re­al­ism

The News-Times (Sunday) - - More Opinion - Ken Dixon, po­lit­i­cal edi­tor and columnist, can be reached at 203-842-2547 or at kdixon@ct­post.com. Visit him at twit­ter.com/KenDixonCT and on Face­book at kendixonct.hearst.

Wel­come to my own pri­vate Con­necti­cut.

I love the light this time of year, when it hits the bright-yel­low oak leaves, the maple trees’ pal­ette of red, as the sun burns through the morn­ing haze that drifts over the Housatonic River in Shel­ton.

Or is that the emis­sions from the fac­tory down the hill?

Sure, we’re tossed in a po­lit­i­cal tem­pest, al­most wrecked here on the beach as the na­tion goes mad — or gaga — over the un­fil­tered dis­rupter who en­cour­ages racists, gun nuts and those oh so ter­ri­fied of the “other” that they openly cheer their prej­u­dices, when they should feel shame. “Lock her up ... lock her up.” Re­ally? Still?

A na­tional leader who lets a Saudi despot mur­der and dis­mem­ber a dis­si­dent jour­nal­ist in their own Turk­ish em­bassy, but con­cocts a con­ve­nient elec­tion­time threat out of a group of des­ti­tute, scared, harm­less asy­lum seek­ers still 800 miles from our south­ern bor­der. Re­ally?

I was driv­ing around Stam­ford the other day with an old friend from high school days, back in the early 1970s. Yeah, that city has changed. It had a pop- ula­tion of about 100,000 then, just be­fore the peo­ple who lived down­town were dis­placed by the first cor­po­rate ant farms that line I-95. Now, Stam­ford’s got an­other 30,000 peo­ple and I can’t ma­neu­ver the city with­out get­ting lost amid this 21st Cen­tury ver­sion.

We were driv­ing on the city’s West Side, where it used to be thick with Ital­ian-Amer­i­cans. Now, late on a warm Satur­day af­ter­noon, you see men and women from Cen­tral Amer­ica, South Amer­ica, sit­ting on the stoops sip­ping Coronas in work clothes, tak­ing a breath af­ter their six-day work week. They’re try­ing to feed their fam­i­lies, just like peo­ple have been do­ing in these multi-fam­ily dwellings for the last 100 years.

Up at the top of Stillwater Av­enue, there’s a ves­ti­gial base­ball field. But there’s a lot more soc­cer played on it and there’s even the out­line of a cricket pitch. How cool is that? Con­necti­cut re­mains a dy­namic melt­ing pot, as the next wave of new Amer­i­cans find their way.

A cou­ple miles east, over by Stam­ford High, where I was lucky to have been a schooled by sev­eral Ja­maicans on the soc­cer team, is a house where a Jewish fam­ily lived, af­ter they were brought over from Europe af­ter World War II by the lo­cal Jewish com­mu­nity.

I must have been 17 that very hot sum­mer af­ter­noon and I re­mem­ber sit­ting at their kitchen ta­ble with my buddy, their son. Their shirt sleeves were rolled up in the

I love liv­ing in a state where the gov­er­nor flies the rain­bow gay-pride flag above that man­sion in Hart­ford’s North End. I think back a cou­ple years, when same-sex mar­riage was no big thing any­more. I re­mem­ber talk­ing with Gov. Dan Mal­loy in his of­fice when the con­ver­sa­tion drifted to gay rights.

heat and that was the first time I saw the haunt­ing, sick­en­ing tat­toos of the death camps on their wrists. It makes me teary to think about it now, I was so cal­low. I wish I could go back in time and hug them, thank them for sur­viv­ing the Nazis and com­ing to Con­necti­cut.

I love liv­ing in a state where the gov­er­nor flies the rain­bow gay-pride flag above that man­sion in Hart­ford’s North End. I think back a cou­ple years, when same-sex mar­riage was no big thing any­more. I re­mem­ber talk­ing with Gov. Dan Mal­loy in his of­fice when the con­ver­sa­tion drifted to gay rights.

“When do you think we’ll no longer re­fer to peo­ple as ‘openly gay?’ ” I asked, in rare dis­play of op­ti­mism. The fight over LGBTQ rights, he said, will con­tinue for the fore­see­able fu­ture, and it does. A threat to abor­tion rights is just around the corner, and al­though Con­necti­cut state law cod­i­fies it, all we need is a sharp shift to the right and who’s to say that can’t van­ish?

Gun safety is an­other rea­son I am proud to live here, with a di­min­ished worry — thanks to the 2013 gun-safety leg­is­la­tion — that a wretch with an AR-15 will pop out of the shad­ows of his self-loathing and start killing peo­ple. Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School, with its 20 dead first-graders and six slain adults, is more than enough car­nage for one life­time. Ac­cord­ing to the run­ning tally by Vox Me­dia, there have been 1,891 mass-shoot­ing in­ci­dents in the United States since New­town, with 2,105 deaths and 7,959 wounded.

And if you don’t think the is­sue of gun safety isn’t on the bal­lot Tues­day, then maybe you should stay home and not vote at all.

In Shake­speare’s “The Tem­pest,” a fam­ily is fi­nally brought to­gether and its con­flicts are set­tled. If only it could be true.

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