Lizzie Borden was born on July 19, 1860. Had Lizzie not died on June 1, 1927, she would turn 151 years old tomorrow. Long in the tooth to be sure, but that’s the math.
Now Lizzie, of course, was a Borden. And with that last name came a certain cache of entitlements of which she was well aware all her life. Indeed, she liked to have that “B” even put on vanity items as well as etched glass windows, and so forth. The Bordens, Braytons, Durfees, Remingtons, Chaces, all those founding families had special entitlements because of their last name.
Today in Fall River, few of those last names exist let alone the cache once entitled to them. Portuguese and French Canadians who once labored in the mills have, in just 3 generations have become part of those power brokers of the city today. They are the “entitled” as well as recipients of their state “entitlements.”
By entitlements I’m referring to what the state of Massachusetts offers its residents. For example, there is a proliferation of Section 8 housing. Also, Mass. is #1 in unemployment insurance benefits providing the highest amount of weekly benefits. Assuming you top out the chart in those quarterly contributions, you can receive $800 a week in unemployment benefits. Think of it: $800/week x 4 weeks = $3,200/month x 12 months = $36,800 for a full year of not working. Pretty cool, huh?
Another great “entitlement” the state provides is fully funded health care. If you reside in Mass. you don’t pay for health care. No premiums. No deductibles. You don’t even need to be working. The state will pay. Pretty cool, huh?
Besides, free health care, the highest payouts in unemployment insurance benefits, and low cost housing, you can get welfare and food stamps for yourself and all your children. Pretty cool, huh?
Fall River today is as far away a place it was during Lizzie’s time as mayonaise goes on a kosher corn beef sandwich. (I struggled finding just the right mixed metaphor there). Anyway, Fall River today has around 18% unemployment, high crime, pot hole infested and debris filled streets, a decaying downtown, a sub-standard school system, an under-educated labor pool, and – worst of all – a general malaise among the general populace to make it better.
There are people from the various neighborhoods who do care and actively donate their sweat equity in cleanups and community events, but it’s not enough. Those people are at a disadvantage because they have no special entitlements. It’s not a level playing field.
A couple decades after Lizzie died, and after WW2, Fall River took cronyism to new heights. By the mid to late 1950’s it had the formula down pat. That’s all continued for more than half a century and the result is what you see. Elected officials seem to come from the same genetic pool. Recycled incompetence, election year after election year.
I rather wish the Bordens, Braytons, Durfees, etc. had not moved out when their businesses failed. I rather wish those old Yankee families with their Yankee values born from a Puritan heritage had stayed, applying their work ethic and desire for success to redesign Fall River when the mills failed. I think they would have been entitled to do so. They understood their ‘entitlements” then. Lord knows, they would not have understood it today.
And neither would have our Lizzie.