Rev. Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP, has given credit to Holyoke Fire Department officer Timothy Leary for the latter’s apology for a racial slur, perhaps opening the door to more conciliation, (Submitted photo)
In a culture where superficial political correctness and genuine bigotry are locked in daily battle, the case of Holyoke firefighter Timothy Leary looks like a drop in the bucket at first.
Leary’s case, though, is more important than that. It puts to the test the two competing elements of any such case: the matter of sincerity on the part of the embattled individual, and the level of forgiveness by a public that is served by him.
In 2012, Leary was caught on video, using a racial slur when referring to Holyoke City Council member Anthony Soto. The video became known to the public in February, inflaming a process in which Leary was in line to become a provisional lieutenant.
Leary and Soto have had a fractured history that dates to when Leary was president of the Holyoke Firefighters Association. That adds context to his attitude toward Soto, but in no way justifies the remark.
The incident brought a number of issues to the forefront: the video taping of a private conversation, the question of whether Leary could be trusted to protect Holyoke citizens if he truly disrespected a segment of them, and whether one comment should be used to judge a man whose official work record had been a good one.