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What’s the big secret anyway?

I’m always amazed when I hear or read about governmental agencies or organizations that have been hiding the truth from the public. Knowing that the truth has a way of coming out I always wonder how long they thought that they could keep the cover-up going.

Some like my own Catholic Church kept the cover-up going so long that after a while it probably seemed to the bishops that playing what amounted to musical chairs with priests who were known sexual abusers was standard operating procedure and sadly it probably was standard procedure. In this case the bishops, who lay claim to being the teachers of Church doctrine, certainly did a poor job of teaching us about social justice. In carrying out this cover-up that cannot be supported by anything in Church teachings they attempted to protect fellow priests who were doing terrible damage to young and trusting children.

I’m no psychologist but I think that the motivation to cover-up and to withhold embarrassing information that makes ourselves or an organization look foolish is part of human nature. No one wants to be seen as ignorant or foolish and people will go to great lengths to avoid that.

The Watergate break in is another case in point. It has been established that President Nixon had nothing to do with instigating the break in. Underlings in the Committee to Re-elect the President, probably reacting to Nixon’s paranoia, ordered it. After the president found out about the break-in, Nixon should have fired those involved and disavowed their actions. He might have lost a few votes in the election but would have easily defeated Senator McGovern.

However, for reasons many have never understood Nixon instigated a cover up of his election committee’s complicity in the break in. Nixon was reacting to that part of his human nature that didn’t want to be seen as ignorant or foolish. Of course, what he did in the end caused him and his administration to be seen not as just ignorant and foolish but also as dishonest and criminal in nature. In the end he lost the Presidency and the trust of the American people that he had spent twenty years working to achieve.

Locally, the delay by Chautauqua County in addressing the COVID-19 outbreak at Fieldbrook Foods in Dunkirk makes it likely that the protective aspect of human nature came into play in this instance. County Health Director Christine Schuyler indicated that the first positive COVID-19 cased related to Fieldbrook Foods was confirmed on August 16, five days before Employees were informed of the outbreak and eight days before the counties press conference.

Why did it take the county and Fieldbrook Foods five days to inform employees of the outbreak? Why did the county wait eight days to bring an already anxious public up to date on the possibility of a larger outbreak of a highly communicable disease? Was it a conscious or, giving all parties the benefit of the doubt, an unconscious decision by them not to look stupid with the hope that the whole mess would eventually go away?

As John D’Agostino pointed out in his Editor’s corner on Aug. 28, waiting five days to warn employees of the problem very likely caused some to become victims needlessly.

What is scary is that it is possible that if concerned employees had not contacted the OBSERVER with their concerns the story might never have come out. Another unsettling fact as D’Agostino notes was that an announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his news conference stating a outbreak at a food processing plant had contributed to an increase of COVID cases in Western New York was what moved the county to hold a press conference.

Finally, in another case of avoiding the hard facts and keeping the public in the dark we come again to the case of the New Brooks Hospital. What we do know is that the state put aside $70 million to fund the project but that because of the COVID-19 virus outbreak New York state finances are in terrible shape and some wonder if the governor might renege on his promise.

Still the state tells us that they “continue to work with the leadership of Brooks Memorial and other providers to ensure access to essential health services for the community is maintained.”

Meanwhile the leadership at Brooks, while adding that their current focus is on COVID-19 tells us the same thing which is that we’ll have access to healthcare but telling us little beyond that.

Keep in mind that the project was announced over four years ago and not a shovel of earth turned over even though several tentative groundbreakings have been announced.

So, Brooks-TLC and Kaleida lets stop the “cover-up” or whatever you are doing and put on your “big boy pants” and tell us what going on. It’s possible we won’t like what you tell us but we will appreciate your candor.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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