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All Politics Are Local: Ryan on Ryan

Maplewood's local pol Jerry Ryan comments on Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

All Politics Are Local: Ryan on Ryan All Politics Are Local: Ryan on Ryan


When Republican Presidential nominee as his running mate, many locals couldn't help but think of Maplewood's very own hometown pol named Ryan — albeit one with very different political stripes. Gerard (Jerry) Ryan is a former Maplewood Mayor and current Township Committee member who is 

We thought it would be interesting to ask Jerry Ryan about his thoughts on Paul Ryan -- who accepted the nomination last night at the Republican National Convention.

Q: Where to begin. Being a political animal yourself, you must have many thoughts on this nomination. Being a Democrat in a very liberal town like Maplewood, we would guess that you hold very little in common with Paul Ryan — outside of his love of public service and your last name. Are we wrong?

We're having a lot of laughs over this in my extended family. My youngest first cousin is named Paul Ryan: he is a college student down in Philadelphia. We've been having a great time asking him for invitations to political events, and his Facebook status now is both amusing and un-quotable in a family publication. My sons go to school with my cousin, and there are frightfully funny plans for bizarre YouTube videos that end with my cousin saying "I'm Paul Ryan, and I approve this message".

I think I was surprised when Mr. Romney chose Mr. Ryan as his running mate. It's not exactly the move toward the center that was predicted for his campaign, especially when it comes to social issues.

Rep. Ryan seems to have a reputation as a bright fellow who understands finance and works hard. I hope people think those things about me, too! But other than our name and our religion, I don't think Rep. Ryan and I have much in common on a lot of the issues.

Q: So, you're not an acolyte of Ayn Rand (Paul Ryan has stated that he grew up reading Rand and her philosophy of objectivism shaped his world view)? We won't find copies of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead on your book shelves?

Ha! No, but I did give Rand's books a try once. My friend was president of the Objectivism Club at Bell Labs, and he insisted I would find them interesting. I tried. The prose was turgid and the ideas were tiresome.

You know that funny quote: There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Q: Conversely, Paul Ryan also cites the writings of Thomas Aquinas as influential — which brings up your shared faith, Catholicism. Thoughts?

I'm very uncomfortable judging another person's religious beliefs. Mine has all that judge not lest ye be judged and do unto others stuff in it, you know... so I am only comfortable with talking about my own beliefs and how they inform my feelings on some of the issues being discussed in the campaigns this year.

I learned at an early age that there's an awful lot of working for social justice, loving and helping the poor, and embracing the downtrodden in the faith I was brought up in. Certainly my opinions about social programs are informed by that bit of my upbringing.

I don't remember seeing a lot about who should be allowed to marry who, or what sexual orientations are acceptable, and I missed the chapter about contraception. It's hard to understand how the greater good is served by making these into huge divisive issues in the public square, especially when it's claimed that there's some sort of religious justification for these positions. There isn't.

The whole "pro life" discussion is a tough one for me. I think that the death penalty is wrong. Doesn't that mean I'm pro life? Some would say that I am not pro life enough because although I believe that abortion is wrong, I don't think it's my place to make laws about it and intrude into a woman's personal choice about her own life.

I didn't miss the part of the Constitution that opposes the establishment of a state religion or forbids religious tests for public office. I think that while being a Catholic is a part of what I am and what Rep. Ryan is, it shouldn't be something anyone's using to determine fitness for office or policy priorities.

Rep. Ryan and I may share the same religious upbringing, but he clearly comes to his own views on these issues from a completely different place. Maybe he should have had some Irish Christian Brothers in his background — like I did!

Q: You mention "Irish." You have a lot of Ryan relations in Ireland whom you visit. Any chance you and Paul Ryan are related? Will you be seeing Paul Ryan at any family reunions in Eire?

We Ryans are all ultimately poor folks from the Limerick area, so I suppose if you go back far enough there may be a connection. Ryan's quite a common name, though, so it's more likely that there's no relation other than the spelling of our last names.

Q: Still, if Paul Ryan came to Maplewood to campaign, would you reach out as a representative of our town?

With the possible exception of the extremely loony LaRouchie's that sometimes campaign by the Post Office, I've never be rude to someone campaigning, no matter which side of the aisle they're on, and I'm not about to start now. Though Mr. Ryan and I disagree on the issues, it would certainly be interesting to meet him if he came to town. I just wouldn't give him an endorsement and give him the advantage of my good name :-)

Q: Well, a Paul Ryan visit to Maplewood could certainly provide for a great FB page update for you!

I think I would be surprised if the Romney/Ryan campaign came to Maplewood, but if they did, I would not miss the chance to meet them. It would make for a memorable photo!

Q: Finally, we'll end with a "Ryan on Ryan" Presidential election prognostication. Mr. Ryan, do you think Mr. Ryan (and Mr. Romney) will win?

I do not. I think that their positions are a little too reactionary for the "middle of the road" in this country.

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