Barbara to Marblehead: "I Secede!"
by Barbara Anderson
The Salem Evening News
Tuesday, May 9, 2000
"When in the course of human
events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have
connected them with another... a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that
they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
The Declaration of Independence
Therefore, I shall declare my reasons for
seceding from the town of Marblehead, as soon as I admit that I haven't worked out all the
details yet. I don't have time to wage war, though I do have a battle cry, "no
taxation without representation", so I'll have to vote "No" in Proposition
2½ override elections because I'll still have to pay Marblehead property taxes or lose my
I'll pretend mine go directly for my
share of basic police and fire protection and trash pick-up; my road will be plowed anyhow
by town equipment on its way past my neighbor's. The surplus tax payments I'll consider a
voluntary contribution to the animal shelter.
The name of my new town will be
Diversity. I got it from a sign on this side of the bridge from Salem, which shows one
black, one white person, with "Marblehead celebrates diversity" printed over
Since there are few black people, or for
that matter middle-class white people who can now afford to buy a house here, I will
provide diversity, and Marblehead can celebrate me. In fact, Chip and I had a wooden sign
that reads "Diversity" carved for us at last year's Topsfield Fair because most
yards in town don't look like ours; it has dandelions, a clothesline, and a variety of
boats and trucks left by friends who need a place to park them.
We are grateful we are not in the
historic district, where one's home really belongs to the Hysterical Society, a good idea
gone nuts. It once told a citizen who was replacing the aluminum siding on his house with
shingles that he had to use clapboard instead, because that was the siding on the
"original" home. I would have put the aluminum back on and pretended it never
left. As someone once joked, the original settlers might have preferred vinyl had it been
available, but they were stuck with wood.
The Zoning Board did recently decide to
allow fence posts to be six inches taller than the allowed six foot fences so they no
longer have to be sawed off. Things seemed to be looking up for what little is left of
Then Town Meeting passed a new zoning
bylaw that requires "all free-standing exterior mechanical equipment, including
propane tanks and air conditioning units, to be visually screened by low fencing or
evergreen vegetation". Chip is planting pine trees around our gas grill, while I put
a plastic wire fence around the dead air conditioner that we can't take to the dump
because of something to do with Al Gore. This fenced trash will be the official monument
of the little town of Diversity.
Our motto will be "We seceded where
others failed". That is also the motto of the Conch Republic, once
the Florida Keys, which seceded from the federal government in 1982 to protest a major
traffic jam caused by a border checkpoint set up to catch Cuban refugees. I may apply to
the Conch Republic for annexation.
If it's taxes weren't too high, I'd like
to join Salem, which doesn't insist it's too "special" for essential items like
sewage treatment plants and MacDonald's. But recent Salem News reports on the tax revolt
in Danvers make me wish I lived among the taxpayers who overwhelmingly defeated a Prop 2½
override and replaced several town meeting members who voted to put it on the ballot. Now
there's a community that's beginning to remember its colonial roots; the tax trend may be
Marblehead's trend is up; town meeting
just decided it needs overrides for basic things like town drains and foolish things
like an elevator in its historic old town hall so a few handicapped people can attend art
shows. It has an open town meeting which was once filled with wonderfully combative
citizens who liked having a voice in town government, but most of them are dead or
disillusioned; now fewer than 500 of the 13,094 eligible people attend regularly. Others
come when they want something for themselves at someone else's expense. Then they pack it,
get their goodies, and never return. Someday someone may call for a non-existent quorum,
and a once-democratic tradition will be over.
That someone won't be me. I'm a citizen
of Diversity now, and I have my own town meeting, during which I can watch television
instead of playing government. My selectmen will be the ghosts of those fishermen who
rowed across Salem Harbor to get away from the Puritans and their regulations, my flag
will show their oars. And my town song is "Freedom" from Shenandoah, in
remembrance of what until recently was the truly historical spirit of Marblehead.
"Freedom is a notion sweepin' the
nation, freedom is a full-time occupation, freedom is a body's 'magination, Freedom's in a
state of mind, tra la."