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Brendan Walsh, Letter to Salem News: Ordinance expresses Salem's values

http://www.salemnews.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/letter-ordinance-expresses-salem-s-values/article_9f17f7ee-a6c5-50f2-b907-37b89bc7f25c.html#tncms-source=article-nav-next

To the editor:

Salem voters will have a referendum question before them on Nov. 7. Some people would like to characterize the vote as “old Salem” vs. “New Salem.” I do not think that that is the case at all.

In two clear respects I certainly fit the “Old Salem” mode. I am 77 years old and I have lived in Salem for 75 of those years, broken only by a year and a half when first married and six months active duty in the Coast Guard Reserve.

I remember a Salem where I never heard the term “Catholic” regarding churches. There was the “French Church,” the “Polish Church,” the “Italian Church.” I never heard about the “Irish Church,” probably because that is my ethnicity. There are most likely folks from my youth who were of other backgrounds who called either St. James or Immaculate Conception the “Irish Church.”

I remember it being, to some Salem families, a scandal to have their child marry someone of a different ethnicity, never mind a different religion or race.

I remember walking through the Point and hearing nothing but French. I was the park instructor at High Street, where a lot of grandparents and a few parents spoke only Italian.

I remember it making a ton of difference to some people that you lived in North Salem or South Salem. I suppose that, to some, it still does.

And, with these memories in mind, I want to address my age group. If you are under 60 your memories) and resultant attitudes toward “others”) may be different. From 60 on up we are in roughly the same old boat.

As far as the issue of the Question 1 referendum is concerned:

The ordinance in question is designed to clearly express the values of our city. It is true that Councilor Ryan’s resolution expressed our opinion. Some think that that is sufficient. Not so. The difference between a resolution and an ordinance is the difference between “should” and “shall,” as in a resolution might say that a driver “should” stop at stop signs – an ordinance says that a driver “shall” stop at stop signs.

Some of my peers say that the ordinance violates the law. Not so according to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Some of my peers believe that the ordinance will protect criminals. Far from it. If there is a criminal warrant or a criminal history the federal authorities are welcome to proceed with deportation. Indeed the ordinance makes it more likely that an undocumented person will call the police and report a criminal. Without the ordinance the person will be hesitant because they have to consider the fact that they could be ripped away from their family – thus making them sitting ducks for criminals and unlikely to report things that require a police response. That’s not my opinion, its police Chief Mary Butler’s conclusion from a lot of years on the job.

Some of my peers believe that the ordinance is unnecessary because “it doesn’t change anything.” Not so if you have spent your life among schoolchildren. Some of our schoolkids live in constant fear that their mommy or daddy or grandparents could be taken away. The vast majority of these children, by the way, are American citizens by birth, just like you and me.

So why vote yes?

1. It will make absolutely no difference in your life or mine.
2. It clearly states the cultural ethic of Salem as a welcoming community – much as Mr. Ryan intended, but with emphasis.
3. It does not increase criminality. It actually makes life more difficult for the criminal element because no one will worry about the police reaction to their information.
4. It eases the minds of little children at no cost to us. What grand-mere or grand-pere, nonna or nonno, babcia or dziadek, grandmother or grandfather would have a child live in fear?

Brendan Walsh

Salem


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