New Castle News


May 19, 2014

Mitchel Olszak: The consequence of cowardice

NEW CASTLE — The anonymous letter came with a question.

The writer claimed to be concerned about a decision made by a municipal governing body. Supposedly, this action was suspicious, devious and possibly illegal.

The nameless author wanted to know who had the power to do something about this.

Suggested in the letter, of course, was that the New Castle News pursue this question and find the answer.

But there’s no need for anything like that. The solution is clear.

It’s the letter writer — and those who agree with him or her — who are responsible for making a difference. There is no one else more likely to care or more likely to change what’s happening.

Yet assuming the letter writer is correct in his assessment of the situation, he won’t change it. That’s because his unwillingness to take a public stand dooms his efforts to failure from the start.

It’s the consequence of cowardice.

Sadly, he is not alone. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who are dissatisifed with the decisions made by local government. Yet they are absolutely terrified at the prospect of standing up and saying so.

It’s as if they believe questioning authority will result in their being dragged away from their homes in the middle of the night, never to be seen again.

Well, I’ve spent the better part of my life criticizing the incompetencies and the idiocies, the sleaze and the sloppiness of government officials. And I’m still here.

Yes, the people who remain silent have excuses for doing so — lots of them. But they are bunk.

If they believe there are wrongs worth righting, they need to act. Otherwise, they fail through their fear.

Of course, some of those who linger in the shadows of anonymity have good reason for doing so. They really don’t know what they are talking about. And if they go public, they will prove this to the world.

It’s far easier to grouch privately, and pretend your pleas for justice are being ignored.

But there are people who have legitimate beefs and still won’t take a stand. They contact me in the belief that if the newspaper points out the obvious about a dubious public decision, the situation will take care of itself.

Well, it doesn’t work that way. As I have said on many occasions, all newspapers do is print words. It’s up to the people to take action and force changes. If they don’t, then nothing will change — regardless of what’s in print.

There is, in this community and country, a terrible disconnect between government and the people. It manifests itself in a variety of ways, such as lousy voter turnout (check the results from tomorrow’s state primary). It also can be seen in the lack of public involvement in major and costly government decisions.

And more than anything else, it is obvious in the way so many people are fearful of speaking out publicly when they see something wrong.

Good government does not arise automatically. It is the result of good citizenship, constructive public engagement and dialogue. If you are unhappy with your government, work with others to fix it. There is no magic wand to solve civic problems.

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