Perhaps the greatest and most uniquely American of the privileges we enjoy in this country is the practically boundless freedom to express ourselves politically. Every political position, from the pin-pointed center to the furthest extremes, can be openly discussed and participated in without fear of government retribution.
That is why today’s news that a sitting Congressman (chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, no less) felt it just to inform a local bank that one of their employees was involved with a political organization opposing his candidacy for reelection disturbed me on such a deep level. That any American needs to fear that their employment may be at risk due to their political views is an affront to the society we have all spent over 200 years building.
From the time I began volunteering for the Democratic Party in high school to my current position as Chair of the Morris County Democratic Committee, I have worked on electoral efforts to defeat Rodney Frelinghuysen. Not out of malice for the man or personal bias, but due to political and policy differences – the bedrock of our democratic process.
Perhaps due to my lifetime of political involvement, but also as a great admirer of the protections afforded to Americans by our Constitution and Founding Fathers, seeing a handwritten note by Congressman Frelinghuysen calling Sally Avelenda a “ringleader” (a term generally reserved for a criminal element) of a political group spoke volumes on the trickle-down effect of the behavior emanating straight from the White House.
Unfortunately, here in Morris County, retribution for political activities is all too common. One need look no further than Parsippany, where the Mayor has orchestrated a campaign of lawsuits and intimidation against a former police captain whose brother had the audacity to run for office. And let us not forget where Governor Christie, whose vengeful efforts have become famous worldwide, honed his craft.
Sally Avelenda is a name that every resident of Morris County, and the 11th Congressional District, should be familiar with going forward. Shame on Lakeland Bank for even considering her political activities as an appropriate discussion point regarding her employment. Shame on Congressman Frelinghuysen for using his powerful perch against an average citizen. And shame on all of us if we fail to hold the Congressman accountable for actions that fly in the face of our societal norms and constitutional protections.
Chair, Morris County Democratic Committee