Charlestown is a neighborhood of Boston, just north of the city across the Mystic River, which was once known as a tough place (whenever a bank robbery or armored car heist appeared in the news, it seemed inevitably to involve a “Townie”), but in recent years has been gentrifying, especially along the waterfront. Many of Boston’s wealthy professionals have purchased homes and condominiums in the area, joining one of the oldest residents already present there: The USS Constitution.
Of course, the Constitution—also known as Old Ironsides, an 18th-century ship of sail—is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and is on active duty in the US Navy. She is berthed in the Navy Yard in Charlestown and each day she follows Navy tradition by playing the National Anthem and firing a cannon in salute.
Last November some of the Constitution’s newer neighbors decided that the Old Lady was not being a good neighbor and asked that her ceremonies be altered or ceased. This week, the ship’s commanding officer refused their request. The neighbors had asked that the charges for the cannon be reduced and the volume on the anthem reduced and even eliminated completely on the weekends. They had complained—and I’m not exaggerating—that the noise disturbed houseguests’ sleep on the weekends and their ability to enjoy a glass wine on their balconies and patios in the evenings.
It’s not like the existence of the Constitution was a surprise to anyone moving into Charlestown, but like someone who moves near railroad tracks and is surprised at the blowing of whistles by passing trains in the night, all we can say is, that’s your own fault for failing to do due diligence. Caveat emptor!
The Constitution’s traditions are more than mere show for the tourists. They are an integral part of the ship’s mission, which is to serve as a reminder and a connection to our nation’s naval history in war and peace and to preserve our heritage and traditions, so we will never forget the sacrifice of blood, sweat, and tears of those who gave their all for freedom and liberty.
A few years ago, I was privileged to ride aboard the Constitution during his annual Fourth of July cruise in Boston Harbor, a day I won’t soon forget. While aboard I recorded the 21-gun salute to our nation from belowdecks.
Charlestown’s blue-state swells should remind themselves of Admiral Boom from “Mary Poppins”, the retired British man of the sea who fired off a cannon from his home on the square each day at noon. Although the blast nearly turned the neighbors’ home upside down each day, no one dreamed of asking the admiral to end a tradition that connected him to the sea and symbolized his long and distinguished service to King and Country.
Of course, I’m also reminded of another movie scene, one which expresses my attitude toward those who would cast aside our heritage and history so lightly. I’m thinking of Col. Jessup from “A Few Good Men”:
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I’d prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to.
Photo by Domenico Bettinelli. All Rights Reserved.