I am always amazed at the lack of commitment of liberals, left-wingers, commies or whatever you call them nowadays.
You know the scene: a group of people are discussing current affairs when into their midst barges Paddy MacGasbag gorged to the eyebrows on the half-truths, innuendoes and general balderdash spouted on confrontational talk-radio and television.
Whereupon, this apostle of Know-Nothingness proclaims, “Government sucks and the liar in the White House is wasting my taxes on bailouts. Guy ain’t even born in this country!”
Instead of lacerating this Limbaugh wannabe with a litany on the lines of, “Pardon me, Pádraig, but much the same was said about Alexander Hamilton. However government will eventually keep your sorry butt off the street with a guaranteed social security check, and I don’t give a fiddler’s if the President hails from Ballydehob, the dude just soaked 20 billion out of BP and guaranteed every child in this country proper health care.”
Alas, rarely is such a riposte offered – usually an embarrassed silence descends as sundry liberals, left-wingers or plain old commies shuffle off with their tails between their legs.
Nancy Benedict-Murphy would have stood her ground. She’d have been a good deal more polite and factual, but Mister MacGasbag would think twice before ever again making such a grand entrance.
Then again Nancy never backed off from any challenge be it the crippling effects of Parkinson’s Disease, or her ongoing fight for the rights of the poor and disadvantaged.
She passed away last month but this community activist and union organizer will long be remembered the length and breadth of Connecticut and further afield too.
I have particular reason to be grateful to Nancy. Back in the glory days of the Bush imperium when the country allowed itself to be steamrolled into the Iraq War, Nancy would roll her wheelchair up to the stage at various Black 47 concerts.
We had written some songs – mostly from the troops’ point of view - about the waste of lives and energy caused by this unnecessary foreign adventure. The barstool patriots were outraged and not shy about venting their feelings. Liberals, left-wingers and commies, for the most part, chose the high ground and waited for better weather.
Not Nancy of the smiling eyes. Wherever the battle was, you could be sure she was in the thick of it. Though the Parkinson’s may have taken its toll, it never dimmed those eyes and their commitment to support the causes dear to her heart.
To my regret I knew little about the others aspects of her life – her intense love of nature and her delight in her gardens in the Connecticut countryside – but I could tell from those eyes that she had a wicked sense of humor and an inner peace despite the physical hardships visited upon her.
There are two powerful strands in the American character – the rugged individualist and the lover of community. The country suffers when these are out of whack, usually the case whenever the patriot game is shamelessly manipulated by politicians, or when greed is glorified as the be all and end all.
Nancy was a person truly in balance. She believed implicitly in the rights of the individual but, like James Connolly and Bobby Kennedy, she also felt that democracy was more than just about having a vote – it implies the right to economic and social justice, and above all that everyone is entitled to decent and affordable health care.
Many feel likewise but not everyone takes the time and trouble to ensure that the less fortunate get a hand up the first rungs of the ladder of opportunity. That was Nancy’s mission and she went about it with such dignity.
And how she inspired those around her – particularly the many idealistic young women who seek to make our society a more equal and compassionate place. They will be her ongoing testament as they introduce the Paddy MacGasbags of the world to logic – and manners.
As for me, I’ll always have the memory of that woman in the wheelchair edging up to the front of the stage back in those unsettling days when it was considered unpatriotic to raise your voice about the misdirection of the country.
But most of all, I’ll remember Nancy’s eyes and the sheer joy they gave to all those lucky enough to have known her.