FALMOUTH – Why did the woman with the ukelele attending a political rally in Falmouth cross the street? Amazing grace.
In the midst of dueling demonstrations about Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to house immigrant children at Camp Edwards, Paula Pace, wearing a blue bandanna on her head and carrying a ukelele, crossed Main Street Street from the Village Green, where more than 80 people gathered to support the plan, to the front of the Falmouth Post Office, where a dozen or so gathered to oppose it.
She never stopped smiling.
“She seemed like a very nice person,” said Erich Horgan of Woods Hole, a member of the Plymouth Rock/Cape & Islands Tea Party. “We agreed on more than we disagreed on. She played her ukelele and I sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ ”
They were wo groups with opposing views separated by a street and their views on life and their country. The two sides were entrenched.
Peter Waasdorp, who organized the pro-immigrant demonstration, said his group’s demonstration was in response to the publicity gathered by an anti-immigrant rally on Sunday at the entrance to Joint Base Cape Cod, which holds Camp Edwards. The rally was featured on the front page of Monday’s Cape Cod Times.
In response, he said, “There were emails going back and forth like crazy.” And soon they organized a counter rally for Monday, in which ten groups, including Occupy Falmouth and several churches participated, said Waasdorp.
“We wanted to counteract the nasty pictures of yesterday,” said Waasdorp. “We wanted to 1, show Cape Codders have heart, and 2, let people know we are serious about offering help.”
And Christina Rawley of Falmouth, who joined Waasdorp and others on the Village Green, said, “People were shocked that people would object to taking in these children. We are very concerned citizens. I can’t even imagine turning your head away.”
On the anti-immigrant side was a man in a red bandanna who identified himself as David O’Neil, visiting from Marlboro. He said he was driving by and saw the rally.
O’Neil said he trusts Infowars.com, the well-known conspiracy site by Alex Jones, more than he trusts what he called, the biased New York Times.
“You can quote me on that,” he said.
He said Jones is trustworthy because he links to the sources of his information. But when asked what those sources were, he said he did not know.
O’Neil said the United Nations is more powerful than the United States. “There are powers pulling the strings above our government. They are trying to make one North American nation with no borders. Rick Perry has talked about it,” said O’Neil, referring to the governor of Texas.
But O’Neil and others demonstrating against allowing the immigrants said the detainees were not just healthy innocent children; many of them carried diseases or were gang members.
Linda Zuern, selectman of Bourne, who attended Sunday’s and Monday’s anti-immigration rallies, said of her source of information about the danger of immigrants, “I read things that are on the Internet.”
Those comments, especially about children who may have diseases struck many in the pro-immigrant rally, as Waasdorp said, as “ugly comments bordering on racism.”
“The words that they gave were disturbing,” said Rawley.
But Janice Perry of East Falmouth, who was at the anti-immigrant rally, said, “It has absolutely nothing to do with race.” Others at the anti-immigrant rally agreed with her and said they did not like being called racist..
But mostly the anti-immigrant demonstrators spoke of taking their country back and of conspiracy theories — some easy to follow and others a bit more difficult. At one point, O’Neil used the word “Bilderberg” to describe one of the global threats to American sovereignty.
Zuern said she was in Falmouth on Monday because, “We learned that they were having a little demonstration and we thought we should be there too. As a selectman, part of my job is to make sure my town is safe and secure,” she said. “We have terrorists in Boston.”
It was in this atmosphere of patriotism in black and white rather than red, white and blue, never mind shades of gray, that a woman in a blue bandanna came over and talked to a man in a red bandanna.
“She had a thoughtful approach,” said O’Neil.
After a long discussion with O’Neil and others, in which Pace, with a big smile, emphasized how each simply sees the issue from different perspectives and there must be common ground, Pace said, “We probably agree on a lot of things.”
Afterward, she added, ““It’s always successful when you reach out.”
Dialogue, it turns out, is different than shouting. And that’s my new conspiracy theory. Well, that and a ukelele. Maybe someone should send a smiling ukelele player to Washington. And the Middle East. And Ukraine. And Africa. And….
Amazing grace. How sweet the sound.
— Brian Tarcy