I made a friend today. Well, actually a statue. Two friends, really. Two statues. I was trucking along on foot up the pedestrian, tree-lined median on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. This wide mile-long footpath, bordered by thick green lawn, iron fences and august red brick apartments on both sides, is a bucolic, fresh air break in ye olde town.
A couple of young strangers, seated on one of the many benches provided for the public, honored my request and shared their pipe of herb with me. Although it is not quite Amsterdam (yet) - the legendary Dutch City where you can smell the redolent scent of marijuana virtually everywhere courtesy of its 300 “coffee shops” - Boston is catching up.
The young woman told me how the cops in her small town used to deploy “civic terrorism” (my words) on her. Not only would they confiscate her herb and arrest her sometimes, they impounded her car, which cost $125 to reclaim. All that for the crime of smoking a joint.
Where was I? Ah, yes, admiring and looking up at the bronze figure of one William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), definitely a soul brother. I am elated and surprised that the city, the artist or whoever etched his words onto the side of the base of the monument where passersby can read them: “My country is the world. My countrymen are all mankind.” They lit me up like the sky on a Fourth of July fireworks display.
Mr. Garrison, I fancy, was a visionary and a man with courage and conviction. A journalist, “he was one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society and promoted ‘immediate emancipation’ of slaves in the U.S.” His humanity didn’t stop there. “He was also a leading advocate of women’s rights.”
I thought to myself: It’s too bad it is not on the main boulevards where everyone can read them. Then again, this is the better place for it. It is quiet, green and I can reflect in peace the wisdom of the message.
Two hundred meters ahead, I met another kindred spirit, Samuel Eliot Morison (1887-1976). The artist perched a seated Mr. Morison on the flat top of a large irregular rock, his legs hanging down, his left hand on two books and a pair of binoculars in his right one.
His words were just as jolting as his luminary’s up the path: “Dream dreams: Then write them. Aye, but live them first.” Even if Mr. Garrison and Mr. Morison never did anything but say the one aphorism each I have quoted, they would qualify as special to me. Upon reading their biographies, though, I found they both had eminent careers in their fields, worthy of your inspection.
Scoundrels, both past and present, abound in the public domain. So, it is a privilege to encounter, on the road less-traveled, two virtually forgotten giants whose words and deeds merit deeper consideration.