2004-06-18 / Columnists

The Progressive By John Paul Culotta

The Progressive By John Paul Culotta

The Progressive is going to share a secret with you. When using this forum to present my political ideas, it is difficult to express strong beliefs without offending many people. The offended are almost always people like myself except they hold different points of view. It is sometimes understandable that they could be offended. Readers may have different views because of historical, personal, cultural, ethnic, or religious reasons. The viewpoints may be a part of their identity or psyche. My secret is I do not seek to offend anyone but to challenge them to think. It is immaterial if the reader is not convinced.

Our nation is going through extremely difficult times. This is truly a time that tries men’s souls. When many young American men and women are asked to serve us overseas in the armed forces, critical analysis of the policies of the government becomes problematic. Family members may feel their loved ones’ sacrifices are being belittled.

Professional politicians of both the right and left, in order to promote their selfish interests, are becoming agents of polarization. Legislative paralysis has become commonplace. Radio and television discussion shows are not providing all sides of the issues to present viewpoints. Ditto heads are appropriate but often insults are used against radio callers who do not agreed with the host.

Left wing critics and pundits who are critical of the foreign policies of the President are often called anti-American and defeatists. In a time of war, criticism of the President gives aid and comfort to our enemies is often a charge. This type of an argument is not conducive to dialogue.

As a union activist I have had the privilege of being part of the union negotiating team. Nothing can break off negotiations better than a lack of respect and insults. The implication that your political opposition is anti-American, defeatist, and are "nabobs of negativity" as one letter writer to The Wave has asserted, makes it difficult for political discourse.

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi of Italy stated to his nation on the feast of the Republic, "without respect there cannot be dialogue in the country or Parliament." He added, " Dialogue is the essence of democracy." A belief in democracy demands we respect each other. Political discourse need not lead to a complete division of the body politic.

Four years ago, we had a contested election with a divided nation. A year later our nation was viciously attacked not by a foreign nation but by a religious fundamentalist terrorist group. After the 1960 election, President Kennedy included Republicans in his cabinet. He felt this was necessary because of the closeness of the election. During the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt included Republicans in his administration. It would have been a prudent decision to include advisers from both political parties to become part of the administration in order to heal the wounds of the divided nation. This did not occur.

There are some that suggest that the left has not provided solutions to the problems we face. This is not true. In fact, the Bush administration is now beginning to use the United Nations as a tool to resolve the mess in Iraq. Senator Kerry has urged this for months. The advice of the neo-conservatives in the White House has led to disaster. Their fair-haired boy was Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraq National Congress. He was used to convince the public that Iraq under Hussein represented a direct threat to US security. He is now charged with being an agent for Iran. Our involvement in Iraq appears to be a result of geopolitics and not an effective device against global terrorism.

I challenge all to read "Resurrecting Empire" by Rashid Khalidi published by Beacon Press. You may not agree with Professor Khalidi’s assertions that there is a broader systematic reason for the incursion into Iraq, which is a continuation of the mistakes of colonialism, but you will be proud that in America different viewpoints can be expressed and published. We are a fortunate nation the enjoys many liberties that others can only dream of.

We may have had a more effective campaign against international terrorism if all the political entities (right, left, and center) contributed to formulating policy. A government of national unity is essential in times of crisis. It is tragic President Bush did not include Americans of all political affiliations in his administration. Diverse opinions may have helped us in these troubled times. We need to strive towards healing the body politic before political differences become a source of unrest and violence. Polarized political rhetoric can lead to a breakdown of civilized behavior. I am taking this opportunity to remind you to remember your father this Father’s Day.

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