Shooting the Messenger doesn't Kill the Problem
After watching Select Board Vice-Chair, Michael Keane's apology for using an anti-Semitic slur, I felt only half the issue was addressed. Keane's statement that his wife being Jewish, precludes him from being anti-Semitic, was an interesting explanation. I'm willing to take it at face value; I don't believe he is anti-Semitic. However, after years of other hateful and hurtful comments by Mr. Keane, I have to wonder if he's also sorry for those comments, or just the comment which made the headlines. Replacing Keane's offensive word, "dybbuk" with a word free of religious overtones, still makes the comment offensive, i.e.: "doorway with detached isolate, possibly a dybbuk (ghoul)". Even if religion is taken out, it's still inappropriate, insulting, and not befitting a town leader.
Ours is a community ripe with opinions and ideas, often spoiled by our leaders' attempts to quash rather than harness our collective potential. Select Board Chair Tom Jacobs' comments linking Keane's apology to a broader discussion on social media, seems to serve that end. Given my respect for Mr. Jacobs, I'll chalk it up to bad timing because I'm sure he wasn't implying that disagreeing with politicians justifies being subject to ridicule. Jacobs does bring up a good point worthy of further discussion. As newspapers and traditional media fade into history, who monitors and reports on government? Do social media, blogs, or special interest funded news sources replace conventional journalism? For the first time in over a decade, the SB is addressing its conflict-of-interest policy. Interesting that social media posts critical of this very issue, preceded their decision.
Over the years, my business has faced repercussions for comments made about inefficiency and lack of accountability in the Better Bennington Corporation. As a result, the BBC refuses to promote us, include us in downtown events, or list us on their website's business directory, (even though I pay a special property tax specifically for that purpose). I was so frustrated, I recently contacted the State Auditor. Mr. Hoffer contacted the Town, and clarified that public services must be provided to all constituents. Days later, my business was listed on the BBC website. Mr. Hoffer also advised the BBC's contract should be put out to bid every 3-5 years; this has never been done before.
I'm concerned this pattern of silencing dissenters is pervasive in our community...be it name-calling, shaming, or exclusion.
— Joel Lentzner