A Note From JP: I found myself needing to learn some new vocabulary to describe those individuals responsible for the issues we have been experiencing in Beaver County. Here’s to welcoming “snollygoster” (one, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles) and “highbinder” (a corrupt politician) into our local vernacular.
It’s just before five in the morning and I’m sitting here sipping my second cup of coffee. I’ve been working on another article to take you again behind-the-scenes, provide you another glimpse of things in front of your nose yet just out of sight.
My typing was interrupted not long ago by one of my sources, relaying information on happenings from last night — stories of events from before the dawn.
It’s difficult bringing truths to light that so many work to keep in darkness. As this source was securely communicating the notes he had taken, I was once again reminded how much some people risk to keep you informed.
I have been reminded of this a lot over the past week.
These people are not awarded for their efforts. You do not see their names acknowledged in print or proclamation. They do not receive a paycheck for their work.
While they enjoy no personal gain, these sources put themselves in precarious positions for a public good.
In a former life, I once gave a lecture at CIA Headquarters in Langley on a new kind of digital profiling I had been helping to develop for the Pentagon. I was in my early twenties at the time and felt extremely self-important as I prepared for my own arrival.
My grandiosity quickly fell into a deep pit of insecurity as I began working my way through the layers of security required to enter one of the world’s most hardened facilities. I remember finally walking into a spacious lobby where I was to wait with colleagues for an agency chaperone.
It was then I noticed the stars. Simple markings carved into an expansive wall of white marble. Below them a book, grouping by year the deaths of women and men who gave their lives in service to our nation. Many of those entries contained no names beside them, individuals whose identities remained protected even after they were taken from us.
That humble memorial to people who made such tremendous sacrifice taught me a valuable lesson that stuck.
The book with missing names has been brought to the front of my mind again recently. The actions taken by these clandestine agents represent a kind of personal dedication that can have a generational impact. But smaller acts of courage by a many — including the actions we have seen locally by these anonymous public servants — can also accomplish great good.
I do believe in some ways their personal motivations must be similar at times. Individuals internally driven, rather than steered by public praise. People who seek to effectuate a meaningful change because the situation cries for it.
Many sources come and go, providing information about one specific incident that may find its way into a single article for you to read. Other sources remain for years, informing stories that may take months — or much longer — to make their way to you.
Among all of these people I am asked one question most often: “Do you think this will change anything?”
I know they are looking for reassurance that the risks they are taking will be worth it. It is an encouragement I do not provide. A comfort I can not give.
I tell them this instead.
Institutionalized corruption and organized crime in Beaver County will not be cleansed by a quick tidal wave of reform. No one piece of information, no singular exposé, could possibly begin to change what is wrong here. Such a solid mountain of misbehavior can only be scraped away by an enormous glacier of truth, a slowly moving but mighty force to which all yields.
That being said, there is plenty of reason to be hopeful. A lot has already been brought to the surface and can not go unnoticed now exposed.
Teams of law enforcement personnel are busy behind the scenes gathering evidence, preparing to leap the increasingly difficult hurdles which must be overcome on the path to reform and justice. Reasonable suspicion, probable cause, and a prima facie case, all precede the tallest and most well known hurdle — proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is a long and arduous path and the public should be grateful for these people willing to traverse it on our behalf.
Beaver County is home to many cantankerous snollygosters in positions of power and influence right now, boisterous highbinders whose legacies will be silence. But there are also those whose quiet whispers have been screaming powerful truths which are helping to shape our future.
It is to these individuals I say a public thank you for your private deeds.