Hypocrites at the Helm—Open Letter #2—Pathetic Apathy
When one refuses to toe the line of expected docility—a twisted notion of “civility”—and openly questions and challenges pillars of the community, who cannot bear to be criticized by ordinary citizenry, one automatically becomes persona non grata—essentially non existent, hallucinatory.
To the Commissioners of the Barnstable County Human Rights Commission—Barbara Burgo (Chair), Alan Milsted (Vice Chair), Elizabeth Barlow, Tia Cross, Dr. Kate Epperly, Dr. Jacqueline Fields (Commissioner Emerita), Richard Lavoie, Patricia Oshman, Paul Thompson, and Richard Vengroff:
Perhaps one or several of you were curious and actually read my 2014 open letter to you, “Dereliction of Duty." Or perhaps you weren’t on the HRC back then? If so, you can still read that letter. It is heartening for me to note that HRC Coordinator Elenita Muñiz has been replaced. How not to remember her grotesque statement: “Racism is alive and well in this country and everyone who is white-skinned is racist.” Will the new Coordinator Susan Quiñones prove to be less racist and more interested in issues of freedom of speech? Well, she has refused to respond to my two emails. Did she distribute this Open Letter to you, as requested?
It is also heartening for me to note that John Reed is no longer Chair. Amazingly, Reed seemed a bit confused as to human rights. He and you ought to study Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the First Amendment. Reed had actually told me in front of you during one of your meetings that a court case in the building had just rendered it illegal to satirize public figures like him. Can it get any more mind-numb than that? Reed had also told me in front of you that it was forbidden to take photos at Commission meetings. Yet thanks to photos, human rights violations and free-speech haters can be documented! Moreover, due to my attendance, Reed had requested police presence—a perhaps common kill-the-messenger tactic of autocrats. Do I have a criminal record of violence? Of course not! Do I make threats? Of course not!
Library director Lucy Loomis used the same tactic in 2012. The only reason she provided to the president of the library board of trustees, Ted Lowry, for permanently banning me w/o warning or due process from Sturgis Library was “for the safety of the staff and public.” Yet not one staff member or anyone else has ever been threatened by me—physically. However, Loomis evidently felt severely threatened intellectually, for I had criticized her in writing prior to the trespass order (see Open Letter and Open Letter #2), regarding especially the Collection Development statement that “libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view.” My point of view and those published in The American Dissident have been permanently banned. Perhaps James LaRue, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, can help you rationalize that aberrancy.
Today I am not permitted to attend any cultural or political events held at my neighborhood library. Does that not constitute a violation of my civil rights? Will the new chair Barbara Burgo prove to be less apathetic and stand for a local citizen’s basic human right to freedom of speech? Or will she prove to be yet another business-as-usual hypocrite at the helm steering in accord with the wishes and close-knit ties of community pillars—the other commissioners, librarians, newspaper editors, town councilors, educators, and businessmen. In the absence of intellectual accountability, as in the case of Loomis and Sturgis Library, democracy and freedom are at stake. The Washington Post rightfully states, “Democracy dies in darkness.” Well, here in Barnstable County, it is dark. Neither the Barnstable Patriot (Deborah Boucher Stetson) nor the Cape Cod Times (Paul Pronovost) will publish an account of the permanent banning.
Of the many organizations I contacted, including your Commission, only the State Secretary of Records chose to stand for freedom and ordered Loomis against the will of Town Manager Thomas Lynch to open Sturgis Library records to public scrutiny, which enabled me to finally discover her email, the only document regarding the permanent trespass order. Will any of you, especially the new commissioners, stand for freedom and at least dare buck the system of hypocrites at the helm and write a letter to Loomis and the library trustees to at least request my basic human rights be restored in Barnstable? How can Town Manager Mark S. Ells and town councilors justify giving thousands of dollars to Sturgis every year when Loomis can, at a whim, ban town citizens permanently?
In 2015, I requested a review of the no-trespass order in accord with Sturgis Acceptable Behavior Policy, which your collaboration likely helped enact: “Patrons whose privileges have been revoked may have the decision reviewed by the Board of Library Trustees.” Sturgis Library did not respond to that request. Several weeks ago, I again made the request, though noted this time I’d be informing you of it. Jeanie Hill, President of the Board of Trustees, responded briefly: “There is a no trespass order in effect; therefore your request to be reinstated at Sturgis Library is denied.” In essence, that is an example of circular (faulty) reasoning: As a patron, I have a right to a review, but because there is an order in effect, I do not have a right to a review.
For the speech crime of having criticized Loomis in writing, the punishment is permanent banning without possibility of parole. Only severe intellectual conformity can allow each of you to accept that. In his famous essay, “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson rightfully stated: “I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.” Might there be one of you apt to “go upright and vital” and buck the system of hypocrites at the helm? [To view links, consult this Open Letter on The American Dissident blogsite.]
G. Tod Slone, Ed., The American Dissident, A Journal of Literature, Democracy, and Dissidence