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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Don't forget clam cakes!

Sometimes, a state legislator has an idea that brings a smile to my face. And sometimes, that idea is ruthlessly mocked. So I think it’s high time I said something about H5654; better known as the “Calamari Bill” which makes Rhode Island-style calamari (the kind with pickled hot peppers) our state appetizer (as well as acknowledging that squid fishing is a major part of our economy).

First, let’s be clear about my biases:
  1. I love Rhode Island.
  2. Rhode Island-style calamari is delicious.

Now, a few sad-sacks have tried to turn this into some kind of demonstration of an out-of-touch Rhode Island legislature that’s more concerned with frivolous legislation than jobs building, something which the bill sponsor, Rep. Joseph McNamara (D – Cranston, Warwick), anticipated in his press release in February.

Without knowing the details of how press releases from the State House work, I suppose I should note it could have been the RI Legislative Press Bureau that helped the representative make his case in the release. It’s easy to make fun of if you don’t have any catch shares, or are otherwise unconnected to the fishing industry.

I’ve already written about how our legislature can do more than one thing at a time. This seems to me an excellent bill. It promotes Rhode Island industry and tourism. Why eat Rhode Island calamari abroad when you can eat it in its birthplace? But it’s also a fun bill.

Editor's Note: I think clamcakes are better.
They’re bringing in a chef to demonstrate how to prepare Rhode Island calamari the right way. This is a legislature that is notoriously thin-skinned and unable to openly laugh at its foibles. And they’re going to hear testimony from a chef, hopefully in digestible food form? That is government which takes itself just the right amount of serious.

Rep. McNamara is correct when he points out the following his press release: “So much of what we hear or read about Rhode Island is negative. We need to start promoting the good and wonderful things about our state.” Our calamari is a wonderful thing about our state.

Too many members of our chattering and political classes have lost the ability to smile about our state. There’s too much negativity in the commentariat on our websites. We need to love our state, even when it fails. My state, wrong or right. If right then to defend it, if wrong then to amend it.

So yes, you can deride this as “feel-good” legislation. But frankly, do you want Rhode Island to feel bad all the time? And if you do, what’s wrong with you?

Samuel G. Howard is a native-born Rhode Islander, educated in Providence Public Schools, went to college in North Carolina and a political junkie and pessimistic optimist.