Comments prompted overreaction
I write this in response to the letters of Frank Pastizzo and Nina Scheuer:
When it comes to repeat felons and all the others who are frequent flyers in the police blotter, I have no sensitivity to them. As for racial sensitivity, I remember growing up here and being taunted by the other kids when they called me “spic.” I remember some of my best friends at work saying the same thing, joking with me. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I’m a Puerto-Rican Jew. Yup. A living, breathing, Juan Epstein. Our family name used to be Weislowitz before it was changed by my grandfather. My mom, Ramonita Rodriguez, was born and raised in P.R. So being a Puerto-Rican Jew growing up here during the ’60s just might have predisposed me to some special attention. Ha-ha.
As for making ABUSIVE remarks on the Saranac Lake Police Department’s Facebook blotter, I was attempting humor in butchering a fake lawyer’s name. I am not politically correct. Never have been. So I guess when people like Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock and others make fun of racial stereotypes, it’s OK because they are professional comics. It’s not racist when they do it. When I do it, I’m a gun-toting, sheet-wearing, rebel-flag-waving racist. Interesting. Maybe if my name was more ethnic, I could get a pass. Think of it. My last name smacks of racial supremacy. Why couldn’t my grandfather pick Winters or something like that? I guess I’d better tell my good friend Linda Zhang at Asian Buffet that I am a racist, and all of my ethnic and gay friends from my old job that I am a racist and a hate monger. I was unaware. I know that none of the people who wrote in EVER laughed at a joke or comment that made light of an ethnic stereotype. I NEVER laugh when my cowboy boots are referred to as Puerto-Rican fence-climbers. I NEVER snorted when asked if I had brought enough rice, beans and chicken for everyone. I went home and cried for days when my Smokey’s BBQ car was declared a Puerto-Rican taxi. I cringed in disgust when my friends at work said they worried if offering me German chocolate cake would cause flashbacks. It was always devastating when someone asked me to rub my head against something covered in rust, to remove it. (I have real curly hair, like an afro.) Don’t even get me started on my big nose. Yup. Never even smirked a little bit at any of that stuff, and I still don’t. I may go into being a comic so I’ll have authorization to joke about such things, and THEN it will be funny.
The comment about not caring about the repeat felons and other frequent police blotter flyers, and referring to them as excrement – I do NOT care about their plight. After 30 years in law enforcement, you tend not to care about them. Referring to them as excrement? That was wrong. I apologize to excrement. Excrement has a useful purpose.
Here are just SOME things that offend ME: Attending the autopsy of a 2-year-old boy whose skull was fractured when a babysitter claimed he “fell” from a 2-foot-high yard toy, and taking his death prints. Removing the perforated, blood-soaked body armor off the body of a trooper who had just been shot to death and then walking around in the crime scene for three days. Investigating a case where a woman was viciously raped in front of her 5-year-old daughter and having to treat the offender like he had illegally parked. Investigating the brutal rape and beating of a 90-year-old woman. Seeing the same names in the police blotter over and over and over. Seeing those people on the street, just schlepping around when there are plenty of places hiring. The list would never end if I kept going.
In law enforcement, you find yourself laughing and joking about EVERYTHING. It’s a job where you try to find humor anywhere you can. It’s a coping mechanism to get through the completely insane system and the horrific things that the average person will NEVER encounter. To the average person, it would seem extremely insensitive, and yes, we do poke fun at racial/ethnic stereotypes, religion, funny walks, funny voices, funny accents, etc. EVEN OUR OWN. There are far more upsetting and serious things to get excited about than making a joke about a name and insulting repeat offenders. I deal with those serious things, and so do my brothers and sisters in law enforcement. It was not the SLPD that removed my postings. It was me. I removed them because there were people who were upset. To those who were upset, I’m sorry it upset you, and I’m sorry you can’t understand how if everyone just lightened up, instead of being so darned hypersensitive to everything, we’d be better off.
Anyone who knows me knows who I am as a person. One smarty-pants joke and one comment made out of frustration over a repeat criminal do not reveal who I am. Want to know me? Talk to me. 524-2093. If you stop by, bring a sense of humor.
Frank Whitelaw is an Essex County coroner and lives in Bloomingdale.