Vox populi, vox demens

Letters to the editor in a local newspaper are, in a small way, the voice of the people—vox populi. And sometimes that voice is more than a bit crazy. Take, for example, a letter in today’s Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin about the forthcoming closure of the Broome Developmental Center. The author, who I shall leave unnamed, claims to be in the Human Services field but a two-minute session with a search engine reveals her to be a long-time secretary currently employed as a membership sales person at the YWCA. A worthy occupation to be sure, but hardly one that confers special insight into matter. But my real issue is not with her misrepresenting her background nor with her assertion that there is no plan in place to care for those displaced by the closure. On that she is spot on. No, my problem is with her assigning of blame for these problems. She says:

“This cut was made on the federal level to save money. Our country is already badly divided by our current presidential administration…Our country is more divided now by the President enforcing this law.”

Now, this woman claims to have a college degree. One would think that somewhere along the way, she would have learned that the president cannot spend any money not authorized and appropriated by Congress. And, since she wrote a letter to a newspaper, I assume that she has some passing familiarity with current affairs, to whit that the US Congress is controlled by the Republican Party and that the funding cuts she decries were enacted by Republican majority in the Congress. Her attempt to blame the closure of a local mental health facility on President Obama because he is “enforcing this law” is ludicrous. But she is right about one thing: the country is badly divided. That is not the fault of the current administration; it is the result of a concerted disinformation campaign by the right wing that leads people like her to write crazy letters to the editor.


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