Let us have a moment of silence for the Pat Fitzpatrick I knew
Gainesville, Florida, should pause for a moment of silence at the next City Commission meeting on Thursday, April 5, 2012, in memory of the Pat Fitzpatrick I once knew. Though each of us fancied ourselves as advocates for the poor, we had different roots. Mine were secular, Pat’s religious.
Like many we knew in common from our days in the last century when we worked together for the now defunct legal services for the poor law reform/test case program, the Pat I knew would never waste his time with silly homilies..
We often met at City Commission meetings. We would compare notes about being arrested by Gainesville police for our protests, or reminisce about the local elections we lost, but not before we gave the 1%ers some of the best pieces of our minds.
Many of you perhaps did not notice when Pat first began to change. I would trace the descent from the time he learned this year that he would be given the highest honor offered to a white man by the historically black local Martin Luther King, Jr., Commission. He apparently was being rewarded for what he did for the homeless, without noticing the fine print which suggested he should not do it again.
Before that time, Pat periodically would lash out at City Commission meetings with a string of words worthy of late night CBS TV host Craig Ferguson, until the presiding Mayor directed his removal from the Council chamber. But after getting his award, Pat would come to the microphone and do a recognizable song and dance, as if he had become the Commission jester.
Commissioner Susan Bottcher would scowl at his behavior when the original Pat was being Pat and insulting the mayor and the other elected officials for refusing to allow more than 130 people to get lunch from St. Francis House, until the downtown business community allowed them to do so. But Mother Bottcher seemed to love the new man even when Pat stayed an extra moment or two at the microphone, for example, to commend the City’s elected officials as being the finest, or to praise City Attorney Marion Radson.
Anyone could see the tell-tale signs of the swelling head symptom of the illness, when Pat asked to perform community service for the City Attorney, if he were found guilty of having trespassed at the Bo Diddley public plaza. But by yesterday, when the Gainesville Sun published a letter in his name which the Pat Fitzgerald I knew would decry for its false piety, few could doubt that this noble creature had taken a turn for the worse. He was in the final stages of “Standing Pat.”
Who would imagine we would live to see the day when Pat would praise the top 1% of Gainesville including the Sun for coming together to bring the Mindtree Corporation to town? Then came several paragraphs in which Standing Pat began with the question: “Wouldn’t it be nice?”
The Pat I knew understood the answer. The response was not to the lyrics of the Beach Boys, but to the declarations by the late Malvina Reynolds: “It isn’t nice to block the doorway, it isn’t nice to go to jail, there are nicer ways to do it but the nice ways always fail. It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice, but thanks for your advice, ‘cause if that is Freedom’s price, we don’t mind.”
I choked with tears when this Standing Pat concluded his letter with paragraphs about the dream of a City Commissioner who spoke about having Southwest Second Avenue connecting the university to the downtown. Standing Pat wrote: “Wouldn’t it be nice if the dream was to not let any of Gainesville’s children go to bed hungry? Where are our priorities?”
The Pat I knew understood that the top 1% of Gainesville who brought Mindtree to town, to Innovation Square on Southwest Second Avenue, gave up on doing anything nice for children or for the 99% of us when they closed the doors to Alachua General Hospital for the last time on that very site on Nov. 1, 2009.
The 1% including Shands, UF, the Chamber of Commerce, and the obscenely salaried City Charter officers have different dreams altogether. They have their eye for instance on expensive organ transplants rather than health care for children or the poor, so that perhaps the next Steve Jobes can be kept alive….
But Standing Pat apparently had forgotten. Alas, it is symptomatic of the condition when one of the 99% thinks he or she will be listened to by the 1%.
Perhaps Pat and I will meet again in a better world. Wait. Listen to me. I think I may be catching whatever it was that did in my old friend. I’ll stop here.