Sunday, May 19, 2024

I’ve lived in Cambridge (with a few interludes to other places) for approximately 54 years. Luckily, I lived in a rent controlled space while I was a single parent, working full time and going to graduate school with some loans that I finally paid off at age 62. Rent control saved me. It needed major reform, but the whole state should not have voted, just as I shouldn’t “vote” on what farmers in Western Massachusetts do, or fishermen on the coasts. My daughter went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, we have owned two condos, and I have owned businesses in Cambridge for about 40 years or more. I am identified with Cambridge, and I am a proud liberal, and a person who refuses to die until we get back to a place of social justice.

Of late, I am so disappointed with some of my fellow white, liberal friends.

People I have known for decades as strong progressives who believed in social justice have turned into anti-development fanatics who can’t see beyond their own rhetoric. Change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be corrosive.

These self-proclaimed moral authority community members have taken to attacking City Council candidates who have fought for years to support the underserved in our community, and have fought to keep people who wish to continue to live in Cambridge, in Cambridge.

Four years ago, they set their sites on Dennis Benzan, whom I’m proud to call a good friend.

Dennis is a man of color who grew up in Cambridge public housing and went to Cambridge Public Schools. 

He went on to graduate from Howard, become a lawyer and small business owner and the vice mayor of his hometown. 

Instead of my white, progressive friends holding him up as a local success to inspire others, they attacked him mercilessly and made sure he was not reelected. This is when it became clear that they had aged into racism and classism, and were no longer the social justice champions they saw themselves as.

This election they are doing the same to several other Cambridge candidates. 

At a recent gathering for a School Committee candidate, they took over her space to vilify the current council and push their choice of candidates. 

They are opposed to Sumbul Siddiqui. Sumbul, a woman of color, grew up in public housing, became a legal-rights attorney and was elected to the City Council two years ago with the support of many of these “progressives.” After she took a controversial vote on the foamier Edward J. Sullivan Courthouse (after getting the developers to double the amount of affordable housing offered), these progressives dropped her as fast as they could.

They have also had it with Marc McGovern. I have known Marc since he was in high school. I mentored him when he was a social work student. Marc has done more to help struggling children and families than almost anyone. He is thoughtful and compassionate and has given so much to our city. Yet because he has the audacity to not be fervently anti-development, these “progressives” have taken to not just disagreeing with him on the issues but trying to destroy his reputation personally. This is abhorrent. 

So many of my friends have gone too far. They have become so blinded by their own self-righteousness that they are becoming the hateful people they say they despise on the right. They are privileged and own their Cambridge properties, as well as other properties. They talk as if they care about Cambridge, but their walk is quite different. I am sickened by their hate tactics, and how they hide behind their “group” as they defame so many good people who have given so much.

If I didn’t love this city so much, I would be so disgusted that I would give up. But I do love this city, and I write this in hope that many of my friends will rethink how they treat others. I write this in hope that they will stop hurting people. Go ahead and have another opinion, but don’t pretend you are progressive and “woke” as you stomp on people’s lives. 

Development is inevitable. We need caring, knowledgeable council members who can negotiate for spaces to keep Cambridge people here, to keep elderly here, to make sure there are jobs and spaces for the long timers and native Cantabrigians while making space for the changes that will support us into the next decades.

Joyce Maguire Pavao, Belmont Street