The Man Who Cried Wolfeboro
I don't remotely believe that all far right conservatives are racist. I don't believe that all members of the Tea Party (tm) corporation are racist. I don't believe that all Republicans who criticize President Obama are racist.
I do believe that a lot of far right conservatives and members of the Tea Party (tm) corporation are racist. And that a lot of Republican criticism of the President of the United States is racist. And because of that, it's given protective cover to these racists to be public in their racism in ways that have never before been acceptable in a rational, fair-minded, positive and (as they so often like to say) God-fearing country.
Which brings us to a Police Commissioner of Wolfboro, New Hampshire, Robert Copeland. This isn't typical of all people on the radical far right. On in the Team Party (tm) corporation. But it's the sort of action and "proud" double-downing that we've seen much too often by them over the past six years, ever since "That One!" became president.
The 82-year-old Copeland is one of three commissioners whose job is to hire, fire, discipline police officers and determine salaries. Wofleboro is a small community of 6,300 residents, 94% of whom are white, and just 1% are black. Yet one resident, Jane O'Toole, was upset when she heard Police Commissioner Copeland in public at a restaurant refer to the President of the United States as what is euphemistically known as "the N-word."
She wrote to the fellow, and he sent back an email to his fellow commissioners and Ms. O'Toole which falls under the standard for today's far-right conservatives of not only not apologizing, but "Doubling Down." In part, he replied --
"I believe I did use the 'N' word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such."
Swell. That's leadership. Just the sort of person you want at the top of a Police Commission. A cowardly and smarmy note that won't even use the word he proudly says he used, while not deigning to acknowledge that it was the President of the United States he was in fact slurring, nor daring to give his high-standard criteria for making such a slur.
I suspect that Robert Copeland meets and exceeds the criteria of most rational, fair-minded, decent, caring and thoughtful human beings for a lot of things himself. For starters, he's probably the poster boy for Crotchety Old Men Who Shouldn't Be Allowed to Drive, or Own a Gun, Let Alone Overseen Those Who Can and Are Responsible for Keeping the Public Order and Peace. And that's just for starters...
To be clear, Robert Copeland has every right to express his opinions, both his benign ones and those that are racist, ugly, thoughtless, and deeply mean-spirited. Just as the Town Manager David Owen has the right to call Mr. Copeland's opinions reprehensible. And just like fellow commissioner Ron Goodgame has every right to say, "It's neither my view or Commissioner Balboni's view that the remarks are condoned." And just like the 100 residents who met at a town hall gathering had the right to express their outrage. And just like Jane O'Toole had every right to say --
"Comments like these, especially coming from a public official, are not only inexcusable but also terribly, unfortunately, reflects poorly on our town," which got the room cheering with applause.
Police Commissioner Copeland sat through the meeting with his arms crossed. He can be fired, since the job is an elected office. Whether there is a recall process is another matter. Mr. O'Toole has said that ""I want to think about what's going on and decide." Well, bully for him, of course. Thinking about things before you act is often a very good thing. Thinking in general is a very good thing, for that matter.
To be clear, not everyone in the small town thinks Police Commissioner Copeland should resign, especially in a state whose slogan is "Live Free or Die." As resident Frank Bader sardonically said, "All this man did was express his displeasure with the man who's in office."
Well...okay, no, that's not "all" he did. He slurred and demeaned a man in as guttural way possible. And he didn't express his displeasure with the man in office, he called that man a horrifically bad name. For all we know, Police Commissioner Copeland thinks that Mr. Obama is doing a great job, just that he's the lowest form of a living creature. And to clarify, it's not that he was speaking about "the man who's in office,' he was referring to the President of the United States who represents all Americans, including Frank Bader. And Robert Copeland.
Again, Police Commissioner Copeland has every right to say what he did. But those defending him are beyond being hypocritical, but laughable and sad. And mostly racist.
Just imagine how these same people who have reacted if President Obama had called some "man in office" something as benign as a red-neck or an ignorant cracker. Or called a Hispanic or Jew or Italian the equivalent slur as Police Commissioner Copeland did about Blacks. Imagine the outrage from most everyone -- including and probably most-especially the far right. Do we think they'd be calling for his impeachment? Oh, my, yes, indeedy. Even thought it would have been the president's right to say whatever he wanted in a spirit of free speech.
For that matter, imagine if Robert Copeland had called a local school teacher the N-word. I suspect fewer people defending him against the President of the United States would be as blithe in their defense. But then, pretty much any public official who slurred and demeaned anyone and then double-downed would have few people defending him.
And this has nothing to do with free speech. People do have the right to say whatever they want. Free speech is just about the government not making laws to prohibit things being said. No one is proposing that Robert Copeland be put in jail. No, this is about good, common sense and responsibility and who a town wants as a Police Commission overseeing the public peace.
Police Commissioner Robert Copeland has every right to say whatever he wants and spit and spew and live in a hole in the ground and scratch his crotch and rants about loud music and those kids today and be as cranky and racist as he likes to his heart's content.
And the people of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, can be bothered that such a person oversees their town's safety and look into ways of getting him out of office. And perhaps into a home for the enfeebled, whatever their age.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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