Thursday, November 1, 2018


My first thought upon finding Council member Jon Weinstein’s email blast in my inbox was this quote, which has famously been attributed to a number of people:

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

Mr. Weinstein must have been pressed for time because this piece is far, far too long. It takes a certain kind of self-discipline and even a little humility to take one’s thoughts and give them the kind of focused editing and revision that produces a cogent overall statement. That work is not in evidence here. The overarching tone feels self-indulgent and perhaps even a bit whiny. 

This piece was meant for people who agree with Mr. Weinstein already, and, for them, it is very likely a completely acceptable effort.

I’ll tell you why it’s not acceptable to me.

1. A letter from a constituent is printed in its entirety as an example of what is wrong with political discourse and local politics. While the writer’s name is witheld, the choice to publicly shame one individual voter and make them the target of blame and derision is an extremely bad judgement call. It’s truly cringeworthy. If you’re in politics you are going to get some critical letters and that is part of the territory. This has all the maturity of sticking one’s tongue out and saying, “I get the last laugh, so there.”

2. The sheer wrong-headedness of calling this “hate speech” is beyond me. Hate speech is a real thing that some members of our community have actually experienced and includes more than criticism. Offensive insults, threats of physical violence, sexual violence, racial, ethnic, and religious slurs, filthy language and suggestions that the victim should harm themselves - - that would be hate speech. 

The letter he shares here might be characterized as a tad beyond disgruntled and closer to irate. That’s it.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, this piece is supposed to be an endorsement for County Executive Candidate Allan Kittleman. At least, I think it is. It’s hard to tell.

If you like Allan Kittleman already you don’t really need this treatise. But if you are inclined to believe that a hot letter from a Democrat is “mean” and probably constitutes hate speech and the breakdown of civil discourse, well, this one’s for you. 

If, instead, you’re pretty sure you know who the mean-spirited one is here, you’ll be pleased to know it took me less than one-third of the words to prove my point.

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