Finally, some courage
July 06, 2011 - "There never was, for any long time, a corrupt representative of a virtuous people; or a mean, sluggish, careless people that ever had a good government of any form."
– Edmund Burke
I must applaud Oxford Village Councilman Tony Albensi for finally speaking up last week regarding fellow Council Member Maureen Helmuth's role in covering up the alleged embezzlement of property tax payments (see Page 1).
Albensi had the guts to publicly say what Helmuth did was wrong.
It was quite refreshing given all the apathy and cowardice exhibited by village residents since it was first revealed by this newspaper in February that Helmuth violated the public's trust, ignored her duty to the taxpayers and helped cover up an alleged crime.
The silence of village residents has been both deafening and disappointing, but certainly not surprising.
Over the years, I've met so many Oxford residents who are willing to pull me aside to tell me how much they agree with my columns or how angry they are with their local governments, but when the time comes to speak up for all to hear, they suddenly develop laryngitis.
When the time comes to stand up and do what's right, they leave it to others.
When the time comes to write a letter to the editor, they decide it's too much trouble or if they do pen something, they send it anonymously or ask to have their name withheld, both of which devalue the opinion.
People say they're worried about repercussions – be they real or imaginary.
People say they don't wish to offend friends who might disagree – although if a friendship can't withstand a difference of opinion, it's obviously a very superficial relationship that's of no real value.
People say they don't want to put their name out there, make waves or call attention to themselves.
People say their opinion won't make a difference, so why bother to get involved.
Whatever reason they cite, they're all just excuses.
Excuses for apathy. Excuses for cowardice.
Ironically, we just celebrated the Fourth of July, the historic date on which in 1776, our Founding Fathers adopted the final wording for the Declaration of Independence.
By affixing their names to that piece of parchment, the Founders were effectively signing their own death warrants. Publicly declaring their independence from Great Britain and the Crown was an act of treason, the penalty for which was a date with the hangman and his noose.
These brave men risked their lives, the lives of their families and their property to regain the liberty they had lost, to right the wrongs perpetrated by the British and to further one of the most just causes in human history.
It's hard to believe that we're descended from these noble and courageous men when 235 years later we're afraid to sign letters or publicly chastise a government official who so obviously flouted the law.
The shame I feel every time I see Helmuth acting as my representative at a council meeting is nothing compared to shame I feel when I look at my fellow village residents whose silence and inaction make them just as guilty.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.