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The Culture of Silence

Bill Ecenbarger’s message stung more than the bone-chilling temperatures that his audience endured on the night of his remarks in Wilkes-Barre.
Ecenbarger, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, certainly saw his share of cover ups, lies and bureaucratic incompetency while covering the Three Mile Island disaster in Harrisburg. His  journalistic work on that scandal merited a Pulitzer Prize.

 

Now, this reporter, who watched the progression of thugs and gangsters in the streets of Philadelphia, was delivering the hard truth to the people who call this area their home. Our residents have lived through the hierarchy of the mining era, where few reaped the privilege and most bore the pain. When that industry ended in a watery calamity, the next logical way to maintain power over the people was to put them into the next industry: Government.

Ecenbarger, the interloper in our world, was called to Luzerne County four years ago to cover the Kids for Cash scandal as a happenstance. Some other reporter couldn’t make it, so Ecenbarger answered the bell. He couldn’t believe what he saw.
Viewing the world through someone else’s glasses can be very eye opening. Something can be blurry or maybe magnified, depending on the impediment. In Ecenbarger’s view, the people of Luzerne County can’t see straight. And, he’s right, of course.
His truth is probably too difficult for many people to bear. Exhibit A is former President Judge Mark Ciavarella, a player in a scheme federal authorities detailed in their filing of charges against him four years ago. Even as a jury decided his fate, Ciavarella, who had been reduced to sidekick to a Wilkes-Barre tow truck driver, courted reporters on the floor outside the courtroom, explaining his sick premise that “it wasn’t kids for cash.” Even after a jury rendered a guilty verdict on 12 of the 39 counts, Ciavarella and his attorney all but declared victory on the steps of the federal building in Lackawanna County. Their celebration was cut short by the angry tirade of a mother whose son eventually took his life, years after his initial introduction to the judicial stylings of Ciavarella.
Ecenbarger went straight for the part of the story that baffles those who live outside the county lines: The open secret that he claimed we knew all along. Ecenbarger recounted that the story of Ciavarella’s heavy hand in court was lauded by the locals, going as far as to remind the audience the former jurist was once named “Man of the Year” by an Irish society group and his deeds were extolled by our former congressman in the congressional record. His retelling of the patronage and “family tree” of those who ascended to power is enough to raise the color in your face, but, deep in your heart, you know it’s true. This job trading and back slapping is not tolerated in other areas of the country, Ecenbarger insisted.
Another panelist remarked about one of the pictures in Ciavarella’s office. It showed grime covered young breaker boys in Pittston, lorded over by a supervisor with a stick. One would have to wonder if Mark Ciavarella ever viewed that image and fancied himself as the man with the stick. He would probably insist it didn’t resemble him.
“The culture of silence” is a scar that runs through the valley as deep as a mine vein. As much as other speakers discussed the reformation of the courts to a reasonable level and a county code that calls for discipline in the event of wrong doing, there’s still a nagging feeling that runs through the cynics and seekers of justice that something is still quite wrong here. That feeling whistles through your ears even worse on a mid-winter January night when you hear a painful truth spoken by an outsider who calls it the way he sees it.  
Bill Ecenbarger’s message stung more than the bone-chilling temperatures that his audience endured on the night of his remarks in Wilkes-Barre.
Ecenbarger, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, certainly saw his share of cover ups, lies and bureaucratic incompetency while covering the Three Mile Island disaster in Harrisburg. His  journalistic work on that scandal merited a Pulitzer Prize.
Now, this reporter, who watched the progression of thugs and gangsters in the streets of Philadelphia, was delivering the hard truth to the people who call this area their home. Our residents have lived through the hierarchy of the mining era, where few reaped the privilege and most bore the pain. When that industry ended in a watery calamity, the next logical way to maintain power over the people was to put them into the next industry: Government.
Ecenbarger, the interloper in our world, was called to Luzerne County four years ago to cover the Kids for Cash scandal as a happenstance. Some other reporter couldn’t make it, so Ecenbarger answered the bell. He couldn’t believe what he saw.
Viewing the world through someone else’s glasses can be very eye opening. Something can be blurry or maybe magnified, depending on the impediment. In Ecenbarger’s view, the people of Luzerne County can’t see straight. And, he’s right, of course.
His truth is probably too difficult for many people to bear. Exhibit A is former President Judge Mark Ciavarella, a player in a scheme federal authorities detailed in their filing of charges against him four years ago. Even as a jury decided his fate, Ciavarella, who had been reduced to sidekick to a Wilkes-Barre tow truck driver, courted reporters on the floor outside the courtroom, explaining his sick premise that “it wasn’t kids for cash.” Even after a jury rendered a guilty verdict on 12 of the 39 counts, Ciavarella and his attorney all but declared victory on the steps of the federal building in Lackawanna County. Their celebration was cut short by the angry tirade of a mother whose son eventually took his life, years after his initial introduction to the judicial stylings of Ciavarella.
Ecenbarger went straight for the part of the story that baffles those who live outside the county lines: The open secret that he claimed we knew all along. Ecenbarger recounted that the story of Ciavarella’s heavy hand in court was lauded by the locals, going as far as to remind the audience the former jurist was once named “Man of the Year” by an Irish society group and his deeds were extolled by our former congressman in the congressional record. His retelling of the patronage and “family tree” of those who ascended to power is enough to raise the color in your face, but, deep in your heart, you know it’s true. This job trading and back slapping is not tolerated in other areas of the country, Ecenbarger insisted.
Another panelist remarked about one of the pictures in Ciavarella’s office. It showed grime covered young breaker boys in Pittston, lorded over by a supervisor with a stick. One would have to wonder if Mark Ciavarella ever viewed that image and fancied himself as the man with the stick. He would probably insist it didn’t resemble him.
“The culture of silence” is a scar that runs through the valley as deep as a mine vein. As much as other speakers discussed the reformation of the courts to a reasonable level and a county code that calls for discipline in the event of wrong doing, there’s still a nagging feeling that runs through the cynics and seekers of justice that something is still quite wrong here. That feeling whistles through your ears even worse on a mid-winter January night when you hear a painful truth spoken by an outsider who calls it the way he sees it.  

 



Tags :  
Locations : HarrisburgLackawanna CountyLuzerne CountyPhiladelphia
People : Bill EcenbargerMark CiavarellaNow


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01/25/2013 9:46PM
The Culture of Silence
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