In last week's election, voters in Massachusetts got to vote on several initiatives. We (collectively) voted "No" on getting rid of state income taxes; "Yes" on decriminalizing marijuana; and "Yes" to end greyhound racing.
I was with the majority on two out of three.
I could have gone either way on greyhound racing, but at the last moment, doing away with dog racing entirely struck me as both overkill - wouldn't better safeguards on the treatment of the dogs have worked? - and class-inspired. The people who work at and frequent "the dogs" are blue collar folks, working stiffs - "them", not "us." Not exactly the sport of kings.
Wouldn't it be better, I thought as I cast my vote, to just make sure that the dogs are better cared for, let the people keep their jobs, and let dog tracks wither away and die from lack of interest, which is what's happening anyway?
But getting rid of greyhound racing passed handily - the proponents of the ban were very well-heeled and spent a lot of money on advertising.
And in the aftermath of the vote, come 2010, those who worked at the dog tracks in Raynham-Taunton and Wonderland/Revere will be out of work. [Dog] shit out of luck, as it were.
One such worker was quoted in a Boston Globe article on the vote:
"I'm 52 years old with a high school education," said Mike Curran, a trainer at the track for 30 years whose eyes welled with tears as he spoke. "This is a dream job: playing with dogs all day. That vote is a life-changing event for us."
Hard to believe this is someone's dream job, but there you go. And there it went.
The tracks are going to see if they can get slot machines legalized, which is, of course, just what we don't need; and which, presumably, wouldn't necessarily translate into one-for-one jobs for dog trainers like Curran.
As noted, dog racing has been dying out on its own anyway.
Now, many afternoons at Wonderland, fewer than 50 people gather in the spacious, dreary building that smells of stale cigarettes. Most are retired men watching simulcast races on small television sets. One man was there yesterday just to watch the weather forecast.
It may be just as well that the good citizens of the Commonwealth are putting it out of its misery. ('They shoot horses, don't they?')
But there is the troubling matter of those who will be losing their jobs, especially those who've worked at the tracks for 30, 40 years (which, from the sounds of The Globe article, is just about everybody on the rolls). They're wondering where - at their age, with their education, with their résumé, in this economy - they're going to find work.
Wal-Mart greeter comes to mind, but that's about it.
And they're feeling more than a little devastated by what they perceive as their portrayal as animal abusers. As one trainer said, "you wake up and find out the state of Massachusetts don't want you. It's a little more than just getting fired."
I could have gone either way on this matter. And maybe it's all for the better, that we're truly putting a lot of nice doggies out of their misery. But we're sure putting a bunch of two-legged creatures into some misery of their own.
*For those who grew up in places where they never saw ads for dog tracks on TV, Speedy is the mechanical rabbit that the dogs chase.