Monday, July 23, 2007

Can You Legislate Morality?

There is a strong debate going on in Cleveland after Ward 11 Councilman Mike Polensek penned this scathing letter to a young man recently arrested for at least the second time for suspicion of peddling drugs in Ward 11. As a resident of this community I was not at all offended or appalled by the Councilman's actions.
When I first heard of the controversy I said Councilman Polensek could have chosen his words a little more carefully, but knowing him - I know this is how he replies when he is passionate about something and he is very passionate about Ward 11.
I had a conversation about the letter with someone very close to me when they first saw a newscast recounting the story and he was upset with the Councilman because he felt Polensek was just irked that the young man would not shake his hand during there first encounter. However when my friend saw the Councilman on another newscast and learned the history between the Councilman and the suspect he had another viewpoint - one which left him reeling at the mother.
The problem I have with this whole controversy is that a mother has taken the harsh criticism of her son by the Councilman and tried to shape it into a threat against her son. In a televised interview she stated that her young daughter - 12 - I believe questioned whether the Councilman was going to kill her brother. If you read the letter there is no implied threat against the young man.
In the first "reference" to death Polensek writes "There are only two places you will end up at the rate you are going - that is, prison or the nearest funeral home." Now, what mother, father, preacher, teacher hasn't spoken those same words to some child headed down the path of destruction?
His second reference comes in the closing "Go to jail or the cemetery soon,". Again, he in no ways says I will send you, help you etc. So the only way the daughter could have implied such is by overhearing adults in her home come to their own conclusions about the statements.
My second problem with the mother is that she has implied that Polensek's "dumber than mud" statement has a racial connotation. As a black woman I do not compare my appearance with that of mud so therefore I don't take offense with the statement.
There has been a lot said about whether the same message could have been sent without the use of profanity - possibly, but having been in a similar situation before I believe that oft times you have to use the terminology the recipient is familiar with and can relate to in order to get the point across.
About ten years ago I was in the process of rehabbing a house that had been left vacant for a number of months when I encountered children ranging in age from 8-about 13 who had come to see this property as their playground. I stopped what I was doing and went outside and politely explained that the home was no longer vacant and that they could no longer play in the yard. About fifteen minutes later they were back. Again I went outside and attempted to reason with them - to no avail. The last time I went outside I used profanity to get my point across and my problem was solved. My mother who was working with me, took offense to my choice of words saying "They are just children," but a large number of the children of today are not being raised in the manner in which my parents raised me. That is where the problem lies.
Cleveland City Councilwoman Fannie Lewis recently stated, "you can't legislate morality" in response to questions concerning Polensek's letter. Lewis said she understands the frustration of Polensek and that there is a problem that has to be addressed.
Again, Mike was harsh in his terms but I as a resident of Ward 11 applaud his actions because he is committed to the same things that I want - a community free of drug dealing teens and adults who think they can destroy my community.
For more on this controversy, check out this link. My friend Radiogirl also blogs on this subject - check her out here.

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