I know; distressing headline, isn't it?
First of all, my surgery on Thursday went well. I'm recovering (fairly) comfortably. For those who were concerned, thank you! And on to business.
Today I came across some rather unusual pictures on Facebook. They were of police officers at Village Hall. If that doesn't sound unusual, take a look and tell me what's out of line.
Before your head explodes, yes; this officer is wearing the sort of equipment one would imagine in the horrific event of, say a terrorist seizing control of government officials. This is not street police gear, this is heavy duty stuff. Naturally, this raised my eyebrows. From the website Noticia, translated by Google Chrome into English, I learned that the Vice-President of El Salvador, Mr. Salvador Sanchez Ceren, was visiting Freeport (of all places) on August Sixth to celebrate "Salvadorian-American Day."
At first, one might think, "Wow! We've made it to the big-time, to earn the attention of a country's Vice President!" Here is Mr. Ceren, sitting next to Mayor Hardwick during the festivities!
"Four days after 9/11, the FMLN had a march in their capital city to celebrate the 9/11 attack by Al-Qaeda and to burn the American flag.
The leader of that march was Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who today is the FMLN's candidate for El Salvadoran Vice President."
The Congressman also stated...
"...its current candidate for Vice President [Ceren], in a pro-Al Qaeda rally where the U.S. flag was burned, this taking place immediately after September 11, 2001. The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador was forced to condemn the written public statements related to the September 11th attacks that were issued by the FMLN and blamed the U.S. for causing itself to be attacked because of its international policies."
Okay; so the Vice-President of El Salvador happens to be a noted supporter of terrorism. As a man who believes in forgiveness and redemption, I tried to find any hard evidence that he'd renounced terrorism. I mean, evil isn't permanent, and people who renounce evil can redeem themselves (it's a life-long work, but I believe in such things) and can become genuinely helpful members of society. I hoped to find some sort of statement from Mr. Ceren, offered between 9/11/2001 and this week, that he had conquered the evil ways of his past and vowed to live a life of benevolence. As yet, I haven't. So far as I can tell, Mr. Ceren is still a buddy of Al Qaeda's. That's pretty messed up stuff!
In the past, Ceren's party (The FMLN) was involved in the Salvadorian Civil War as a major combatant; according to Wikipedia, this conflict claimed seventy thousand people (70,000). Now, this is one of those Latin American "containment" wars that the U.S. was involved in; we supported the military dictatorship of El Salvador even when they committed atrocities. It wasn't as bad as the fracas in Guatemala (when the U.S. overthrew a democratically elected leader to protect American fruit companies), but we were still complicit.
However, as in most parties to these type of wars, the FMLN was far from blameless. For example, it's noted that they used Human shields during the fight in San Salvador. It is still recognized, as Congressman Rohrabacher points out, as a sponsor of terrorism. Many Freeporters of Salvadorian descent escaped this civil war, which didn't end until early 1990's. Many were likely victims of the FMLN. This history, combined with the lack of a resignation of terrorism, pretty much seals Mr. Ceren's deal in my eyes.
So here's my two biggest questions: Why the hell is this man in Freeport; and what's being done about it?
Terrorist Supporter in Freeport, New York
Before I get any further into this article, I need to restate that as a general principle The Weekly Freeporter is a non-partisan publication. There's no Democrat, Republican, Home Rule, Communist, or Pastafarian alignments, here. In fact, whatever my personal biases are, or whatever my colleagues believe, we focus on reporting only the facts of a case. We leave the decision making up to our readers on political issues.This is not a political issue. This is an issue of "what the fuck is a guy like this doing in our town, rubbing elbows with -anyone-, let alone Mayor Hardwick?"I immediately searched the Village webpage for any announcer from the Mayor or the Board of Trustees on this issue. With all the firepower needed to protect a foreign head of state, surely the folks in charge knew in advance that this man was coming to town. How -exactly- is it that not one scrap of information can be found on the Village webpage? How is it that I can search for information on Google and find only a relatively small Spanish-language publication's announcement that Mr. Ceren would be in town? What, was Newsday asleep?I could understand if Mayor Hardwick was informed by, let's say for the sake of argument, the State Department that this guy was coming to town. I could understand if he wasn't given a choice in the matter. Foreign dignitaries could easily be "asked" to visit certain municipalities, and those municipalities might have very little control over whether that happens. So maybe Mayor Hardwick wasn't given a say in this matter. Fair enough. I would have loved to see a press release from his (still absolutely anemic, without-evidence-of-existence) public relations department saying, for instance..."Hey, this is Mayor Hardwick. So, there's this Vice President of El Salvador with a really sketchy past coming to town. I'm not comfortable with it, but since this is the situation, here are my feelings and here's what we plan to do." You know, not exact words, but something to that effect.I would respect a Mayor who, in a situation he doesn't like, takes the initiative and engages with the public on possible controversy. I'd honestly have cheered on Mayor Hardwick if he announced, in advance, that this situation was coming up. The dude didn't step off the plane at the Freeport Airport and demand a news conference in the same day! Assuming our Mayor had concerns with this visit, he should have laid them bare well before Mr. Ceren made it to town.But maybe this wasn't an imposition. Even if he was actively welcoming Mr. Ceren, as a gesture of forgiving the past or of some other grand ploy to break the man's support of evil, shouldn't it have been obvious that his presence would be controversial? Following this, shouldn't our Mayor have prepared some kind of defense of his viewpoint? Why was this man being welcomed into town?Instead, we residents find out about this visit only when our all-too-honorable police officers are seen toting assault rifles and decked out in full combat gear, ordered to protect a man who a decade ago would have been happy to see them die. Let me ask a simple fucking question:How do you think they feel?I ask this to every reader, but especially to Mayor Hardwick - How do you think the police officers guarding Mr. Ceren, the fire fighters on call in case of emergency, the EMTs and Paramedics providing relief to public events, and other heroes of this Village feel to see you sitting elbow-to-elbow with a man who cheered while the twin towers fell? Who marched in appreciation while their friends and family died? This is a man who was getting his jollies at American deaths - at the deaths of Freeporters, actually. How do you think they feel having to stand around and take care of an unrepentant supporter of terrorism?Honestly, this isn't a political jab. The lack of preparation and responsibility on display here demands - and deserves - explanation. It's my hope that we'll get it. It's the law of probability that we will not. It's simple fact that, yes, there will be consequences to this. One way or another, there will be consequences.To be direct. regarding this incident...Mayor Hardwick,Your public relations department is a complete catastrophe. That's nothing new, but the fact that it hasn't been fixed throughout your tenure rests solely on your shoulders. As a result of this (to be polite) ineptitude, whether you realize it or not, you've just been part of a welcoming event for a supporter of terrorism who's Al Qaeda Fan Club card is still valid, Mr. Salvador Sanchez Ceren. If you did not know this, or if you had no control over this event, then you failed completely in your duty to apprehend a given situation and explain it to the residents of your town. If you did realize it, and you were willingly a part of it, then clearly you are out of touch with the residents you work for.Either way, this is a failure that I am sure will be remembered come election day. It's not too late to explain your actions, but this isn't a middle school term paper being turned in a few days late. There are no statements you can give, now, that will fully redeem your performance in the eyes of those who are literally injured by your failure in this regard. There is only damage control, accompanied by apologies. Note that neither of these things actually un-does the damage you have done.Fortunately, I did not lose anyone in the 9/11 attacks. I know people who were lucky enough to have escaped alive. I know of people who were not so lucky. As someone involved in the fire department, so do you; probably, in fact, more than I. This reality only makes your mistake more sickening to my stomach. You should have known better, and you proved you do not.How is it that within 24 hours I could dig all of this information up and adequately explain it, but in the months (at least!) you have had to prepare for the event, you and your administration could not? Am I honestly that superior to your paid staff? If so, why do you pay them? Since I am not the only one who has come up with this information, however, it clearly isn't me - it's you. It raises the question of why we, as taxpayers, pay you? Now is your chance to explain yourself.Why was Salvador Sanchez Ceren in our town? Were you aware of his history as a supporter of terrorism during your event with him? Do you have any information which leads you to believe he has renounced it? Did you welcome Mr. Ceren willingly, or were you made to welcome him against your will?These are important questions, and we demand - and deserve - answers.My warmest regards,--Jesse Pohlman