Posts Tagged ‘patrick mcmahon’

Editorial Cartoon Bashes Middletown and Insults St. Sebastian

October 23, 2011

Statue of Saint Sebastian on grounds of St. Sebastian Church: John Brush Photo

A recent editorial cartoon by Bob Englehart of Hartford Courant has caused considerable consternation here in Middletown. Of course editorial cartoonists, as well as editorialists in general, always run the risk of offending some person or group and Mr. Englehart’s “McMahon as Martyr” piece, which appeared in The Courant on Oct 20, was no exception.

Some background: Acting (Police) Chief Patrick McMahon was demoted and suspended for cause by Mayor Sebastian Giuliano earlier this month. The immediate cause was stated to be the mayor’s loss of confidence in the chief whom he had previously supported for a permanent post as chief of the department. McMahon reportedly was seen imbibing an adult beverage  while armed and in uniform ( a no-no according to the mayor). Mayor Giuliano was not pleased with McMahon’s responses when questioned about the alleged drinking.

The mayor’s support for McMahon and the countervailing lack of such support by other city officials, principally Democrats on the Common Council,  has been a matter of controversy for many months. Finally, a citizen initiative was undertaken by local activist Ed McKeon who managed to secure enough valid signatures to place the issue of McMahon’s promotion on this year’s election ballot. (The ballot question has most likely been rendered moot by the demotion but this is still being investigated.)

Englehart’s cartoon caused distress on two counts.  Firstly, he sullied the reputation of the city with his comment about the cartoon; ” …Stay tuned for more soap opera from Middletown, a town just like yours but really screwed up”. Secondly, and here is where he really stepped into it, he suggested that viewers of his cartoon should check the box as to who was the  Middletown’s official martyr, Patrick McMahon or Saint Sebastian, whose namesake church is a prominent feature on Washington Street.

Well, this prompted a vigorous response from former Deputy Chief (Police) and present Common Council member Phil Pessina, a parishioner at St. Sebastian Church. Mr. Pessina’s objections were presented in great detail in letters that appeared in Middletown Patch and in The Middletown Eye. Excerpts from Mr. Pessina’s letters:

“To Bob Englhart…I am very upset and disappointed with your choice of cartoon characters concerning the recent developments involving our former Acting Police Chief and your lack of sensitivity towards our city’s Catholic residents and our beloved Patron Saint ‘Saint Sebastian’. Your pen has struck a direct insult to both our residents of Italian descent and our parishioners of Saint Sebastian Church…Your insinuation that our town is all “screwed up” is unfounded and based upon your personal feelings. Just because we have a challenge to deal with in our city government, it doesn’t give you the right to besmirch our community…Your reader poll comparing an individual and a saint, is very disturbing and a direct insult towards the parishioners of Saint Sebastian Church who have a deep, devote faith in their patron saint who was put to death because martyrdom for the Christian people.”

Mr. Pessina concludes with a request for an apology on behalf of the people of Middletown and particularly the parishioners of St.Sebastian Church. He also requests a retraction of the offending cartoon.

Phil Pessina Leads I Nuri Procession,Feast of St. Sebastian, May 16, 2011: Credit C. Day

Mr. Englehart, who lives in Middletown and attends South Church, describes his political leanings as “progressive/moderate”, whatever that means; as for his religious beliefs he says; “Congregationalist-hell, we’ll marry anybody who’s in love!” 

Bob Englehart Self Portrait

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