2007-03-23 / Columnists

The Progressive

Commentary By John Paul Culotta


Our purpose in founding the city was not to make any one class in it surprisingly happy, but to make the city as a whole as happy as possible"

Socrates according to Plato

(The Republic)

Sometimes, it is difficult to accept what a miracle the United States is. We have a democratic republic that believes the majority rules, and at the same time we respect in theory, the rights of all minorities. Our history is full of examples of racist, sexist, and religious exclusionary practices and violence. At the same time, we are a nation that has welcomed people from all across the globe. People of persecuted religious beliefs elsewhere are able to practice their beliefs here. We have also many denominations that began here. Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Mennonites, Coptic Christians, Jews, Moslems can practice their beliefs in relative peace in this nation. Scientology is banned in many European countries. It is popular among celebrities in the good old USA. We are a people of faith and believe all people are entitled to worship as long as there is no harm to the larger community. This nation has no established religion.

Race is the most divisive factor of American society. Al Sharpton's recent discovery that his family's history may include a page that lists one of his ancestors being property of a famous deceased racist politician is indicative of the explosive nature of our shared racial history. Many of our ancestors came in bondage or as indentured servants. Many family histories are tales of man's in humanity toward man. My grandfather first came to this country as a seasonal farm worker from Sicily at the age of twelve. He worked cutting sugar cane in Louisiana and after the crop was harvested he was immediately sent back to Sicily until the crop needed to be harvested again. He and many other children were then shipped back to our shores like machinery or commodity. All of us should recognize the need of economic justice.

Many Africans now come to the United States; not in bondage but in order to survive. Many Africans die trying to enter Europe. There is considerable evidence that human traffickers are bringing Africans and Asians to our shores and Europe in vessels that are dangerous and many lives are lost at sea trying to reach our golden shores. Our political system must ensure an immigration policy that serves our economic needs and makes a genuine cessation of people profiteering from human misery. Traffickers in human capital and dreams are this age's slave traders. We must stop people trafficking. It is also necessary to understand that most undocumented workers came to our country legally. These workers just overstay their visas. There needs to be a complete evaluation of how people are admitted to this country. It is estimated that 50,000 Irish are here and many East Europeans are here because they overstayed their visas. The terrorists that flew planes into the world Trade Center and the pentagon overstayed their visas.

We are one year away from a presidential campaign and already we are saturated with the uniqueness of the campaign. We now have a woman and a black senator campaigning for the Democratic nomination. What is unique is not that a black man or a woman might be running, but that both of them may well be electable.

The Republicans have an Italian-American and a Mormon as candidates for their party's nomination. Polls indicate Americans are willing to vote for a woman, a black, and an Italian American. These same polls indicate a Mormon is a less desirable candidate. I am perplexed by these poll findings.

Are Americans more inclined to object to a person because of the person's religious beliefs than the candidate's color or sex?

It is amazing that a candidate's religious denomination still can bar the candidate from secular civic responsibility.

It is the progressive's opinion that many Americans are now living a lie. They will not admit to racist or sexist beliefs but live their lives as though only people of their color, religious belief, or nationality deserve respect and justice. Why do I say this?

We are willing to punish undocumented workers, but we hire them. We know our country's foreign policy forces dislocation and poverty overseas causing massive population movements. Why don't we have a humane immigration policy? Why do many black Americans encounter negative behavior by a larger society on a daily basis? Why do many blacks feel they are profiled by police forces all over this nation? Why does the media still persist in negative stereotype movies, television shows, and recordings? I watched "I Love New York," "The Sopranos," and "The Nanny" on television this week with my teenage daughter. Imagine what her opinion of blacks, Italian Americans, and Jewish people would be based only on those shows!

This type of entertainment should not be censored or boycotted, although it reflects though the easy money that can be made using stereotypes.

Our cultural elite still is unwilling to be truly inclusive because the American public is comfortable with ethnic stereotyping. Our movies should reflect all Americans as human beings with all the faults, strengths, and behaviors that humans entail, not as ethnic stereotypes.

Our nation should strive to include all of us in our political, economic, and cultural life. The pursuit of happiness cannot be a right for a select few.

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