The recent controversy surrounding the request of Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation to remove the cross surmounting the World War I memorial honoring William Jolicoeur, and removal of an image of an angel and the “Firemens’ Prayer” on the Woonsocket Fire Department’s website does not seem to be working out the way the FFRF leadership had hoped. First, the request has provoked a loud and potent backlash from a wide variety of individuals – all who have been repulsed by the request to “sanitize” anything that may be slightly religious in their quest for a secular (read that Godless) world. FFRF does not care who they offend in the process, a decision they will regret, considering that veterans and fire fighters have been targeted.
The media reported that over 1,000 veterans, bikers, students, elected officials, religious leaders and average citizens united on May 2 in a public show of support for traditional American values, veterans, fire fighters and the Constitution itself. That alone is cause for celebration in light of the apathy that is too often reflected with dwindling or tepid voter turnout at election time or a similar attitude towards writing letters to the editor or calling radio talk shows – in other words expressing one’s opinion. Those opportunities have not gone ignored. Letters have been written, calls have been made not only locally but statewide if not nationally!
Among the opportunities presented have been seeing and hearing the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence, the Most. Rev. Thomas Tobin passionately defend the role of religion in daily life, in public life of our city, state and Nation. I suggest that the bishop’s remarks at the Place Jolicoeur May 2nd rally was worthy of publication in its own right and among the most stirring homilies he has delivered. Another opportunity has been to hear retired Lt. General Reginald Centraccio, Mayor Fontaine, talk show host John DePetro and Anthony DeQuattro explain why they support keeping the cross on the monument and the angel and prayer on the website. Fontaine went on to explain that in addition to the WWI veteran, the monument also pays tribute to three brothers Alexandre, Henri and Louis Gagne who died during WWII.
News of Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s support was powerful coming from this General Officer. Where however were the other three Constitutional Officers? (I believe Governor Chaffee’s position is clear considering his “Holiday Tree” stance last December.) Where were they? For that matter what about our Congressional representatives? Busy? Perhaps, but in this technology centered age we live in, they could have easily let their position of supporting us or not be known. Interestingly, there was a clear message of support transmitted by the solid presence at the May 2nd rally of Brendan Doherty, Republican candidate for Congress in the First District that includes Woonsocket. Hailing from our neighboring community of Cumberland, the former Superintendent of the RI State Police, I am sure could have joined with the other speakers – what an opportunity to address the thousand gathered and the television and radio audiences who were listening and watching this event. He did not. Instead he presented as strong a message with his very presence as a fellow citizen and in so doing presented for me someone taking a very different tack; a clear image of a real leader.
I’m tired of the “hey look at me” crowd, crowing or braying for attention regardless of whether or not it is deserved. Doherty struck a refreshing and humble note that will resonate from North Smithfield to Newport - and it should. He is a proven work horse, not a show horse. Service not self should be his motto. Imagine him in Washington!