I ended last week’s column with the thought that it is a sad day in America and in the North Country when anyone is ridiculed for publicly sharing their opinion. Only through exchange and discussion can new ideas be forged into accepted and successful action. We must be open-minded and have a fair exchange of beliefs and ideas if we hope to advance our nation and achieve greater understanding among our citizens.
I’ve mentioned this point before, but, a letter to the editor in this week’s paper serves as an example of an ongoing trend to publicly intimidate and discourage people from sharing their views with others. I receive many emails, letters, phone calls and in person comments regarding this weekly column. Some agree with my views, some disagree and I assume some could care less and that’s fine. But what is of greater concern is the vast majority of respondents who don’t want to share their views publicly for fear of being attacked and put down. In an open and free society like ours where men and women have sacrificed their lives to defend our privilege of free speech, this form of bullying like all forms of bullying, must not be tolerated.
For many years I felt the paper should have a voice and a face on issues that affect us all. Not coming from the editorial side of the business nor possessing strong writing skills, I did not feel qualified to adequately articulate a weekly viewpoint on issues, perhaps like others, for fear of being embarrassed. Working in unison with our editorial staff a few years back we decided that I would take on the weekly task of drafting a personal column, while our editors would work in collaboration to draft a team opinion piece. I have no input on their opinions, nor do they with mine.
The letter to the editor that arrived last week raises several valid points, but the author unfortunately can’t resist the opportunity to toss in an insult or two while trying to make his points. We obviously have a disagreement over the controversial “Stop and Frisk” law recently found unconstitutional in New York City. In my opinion, this country needs to get over the racial divide as it only exists if we allow people to use it as a wedge between people of all races. This nation is a melting pot and we need further refining on the racial issues that continue to plague many.
I firmly believe people of all race and color need to be treated equally and judged by their conduct and character. In the letter, Mr. Klieman refers to my example of being stopped in Lake Placid by the police makes the race of the driver irrelevant. And that it’s not the same as a black man being stopped in New York City just for being black. To his point I agree race had no place in my stop and it shouldn’t have played any role at all. But what if I was a black man? Would that have clouded my feelings regarding the stop? Would I have felt that I was unjustly stopped because of the color of my skin? And that is my very point. Stop and Frisk is being conducted both by Caucasian and African American police officers in high crime communities where unfortunately the majority of the population is of colored skin.
In communities where violence is running rampant, this law has helped save lives and taken illegal weapons off the street, which to me is far more important than the race of people who have proven beyond any doubt that they are as equal as any white person in this country. The opportunity to reach for the American Dream has been realized by those who choose to work hard, strive to achieve their goals and help others to do the same. We need look no further than the highest office in the land now occupied by Barrack Obama, as proof of what any person can achieve.
Yes, many African Americans still live in poverty and have been unable to find their way to a better life. But we should not turn a blind eye leaving them to injure and kill each other in these crime ridden communities in order to avoid offending any of them for fear of making them feel persecuted. If making that statement makes me a ranting racist and an embarrassment to society then I am guilty.
What the letter writer doesn’t know is that I have personally known, worked for, admired and hired men and women of all races and skin color during my 59 years on this earth. Each is unique and each has made choices in their lives that either caused them to achieve their goals and find happiness or have kept them from doing so. In nearly every case those who took personal responsibility for their actions, good or bad, were capable of holding their heads high. Those who looked to blame others for their misfortunes always seem to be stuck in the same place and could never place blame on the single person most responsible for holding them back — themselves.
Mr. Kleiman, I recognize and respect your effort to put your thoughts in print and for speaking up when you disagreed with my position. Under normal conditions your letter would not have been published were it aimed at anyone other than me, but since I’ve chosen to put my views on display it would be unfair for our editor to withhold your views. This country faces many problems and we stand a far better chance of addressing them if we are civil with each other and seek solutions not based on prejudice but on achieving results. I would also be happy to publish your suggestions on solving the violence in many of our troubled New York City neighborhoods and how you would address the racial differences in our country.