Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Does this Town Need an Enema?

COLUMN NOTES: The situation with Jeffersonville's Clerk-Treasurer Peggy Wilder has been going on for some time now. I wrote a previous column about it. After I did, two other local columnists wrote about it here and here. Ms. Wilder was silent for a long time, but then decided to do an interview with the paper which garnered front page attention. Shortly after that was published, she was arrested for OWI.

HARBESON: The Wilder way


— I’ve changed my mind about Peggy Wilder. It was a good thing she did not resign and no, it’s not just because it’s been extra easy to find a topic to write about lately.

OK, look. I know you’re sick. I know you’re tired. But can’t you just lie down and put your hand over your mouth to stop the heaving for just a bit longer while someone at this paper writes one more time about this issue?

I need to write another column because I believe Ms. Wilder deserves a lot of credit for what she’s accomplished, even while barely stepping into her government office. She’s done a fantastic job of demonstrating, to me at least, all that is wrong with government and how it operates.

Let me explain.

If Peggy Wilder had resigned, I would not have been able to see how well our local politicians can stick together. If the 3M Corp. could figure out a way to package that, they could stop all further R&D into adhesives.

If Peggy Wilder had resigned, I would not have had the surreal experience of watching politicians remain eerily silent for an unusual amount of time. Oh, if only we could package that.

If Peggy had resigned, I might not have understood how hard it is to actually get rid of an elected government official. I might never have learned just how many rules, regulations and laws government officials write which make the process as difficult as possible.

If Ms. Wilder had resigned, I would not have observed the local state government representative, Steve Stemler, also remain oddly silent — that is, until the issue reached just the right level of ripeness. When it did, he inserted a press release filled with platitudes as smoothly as an Italian might insert a pimento into an olive.

If Ms. Wilder had resigned, I would not have noticed that in the state level, too, it’s never as simple as publicly speaking the truth to help persuade someone to do the right thing. No, the situation is merely used to assure citizens that it’s only a matter of the right government employee inserting the right government language to tweak proper government procedures to answer any question of government failure. Politicians are so helpful.

If Peggy had resigned, I would not have learned what is of primary importance to Stemler, which is maintaining the “public’s trust in its elected officials.” I would not have had the chance to think about how this constant effort to maintain legitimacy is vital to making sure the public continues to buy into this game instead of looking for alternatives.

If Peggy had resigned, I would not be able to watch as a group of disgusted and frustrated citizens organize an effort to clean out various local governments — and I mean really clean them out. So much so that for days now I’ve had Jack Nicholson’s version of The Joker in my head as he says, “this town needs an enema.”

If Peggy had resigned, I would not have thought about how easy it is to individually withdraw support, financial and otherwise, when something occurs as part of daily voluntary associations and how free we are to act, based on our own individual standards of acceptable behavior.

Finally, and most importantly, if Peggy had resigned, I might have focused much more on her personal struggles and been better able to compassionately extend my heartfelt support and best wishes that she finds a way out of her troubles. Instead, I see a front page interview from a politician making excuses, and unfortunately Ms. Wilder deserves all the credit for that.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson hereby formally resigns from ever writing another column about the Peggy Wilder situation.

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