As a resident and teacher in Hampden Township, Commissioner Al Bienstock and I have served the same community for the last decade or more. While I respect his First Amendment rights to say what he believes, I am glad to see he has ceased writing his series of limericks. However, the fact that he chose to publish those words in a public forum calls into question his integrity and judgment. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from accountability.
According to an article in the Carlisle Sentinel, Mr. Bienstock’s intention was to “point out silliness by being silly.” But his “humor” missed its mark. In our Hampden Township community of 30,000+, nearly 20% of our neighbors are among the people he disparaged with his “silliness,” namely Muslims, African Americans, LGBTQ, and Indians, to name a few. We are a diverse people. The time for division, especially through thoughtless humor, is over.
Should I or any of my colleagues engage in such rigid rhetoric that divides members of the community into “us” and “them” based upon their color, creed, or other components of their personal life, we would expect swift action. We would be held accountable for our words. Those of us who serve the public must be held to a higher standard. Mr. Bienstock’s lack of remorse and casual dismissal of the reactions of the public he was elected to serve is the most egregious part of this “silly” situation. We must hold those we elect to office accountable for their actions, especially when they refuse to do so voluntarily.
Jake Miller is a candidate for Cumberland County Treasurer and a teacher and resident in Hampden Township.