2008-02-22 / Columnists

The Progressive

Change, Part II
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

Last time the Progressive made some suggestions regarding social, economic and political changes that are not political promises, but genuine solutions to some of our nation's problems and challenges. Here is a continuation of these ideas.

1) This nation needs to evaluate our commitment to the environment and our obligation to other species with which we share this planet. I am a carnivore and do not advocate a vegetarian lifestyle. At the same time we need to evaluate the methods used to bring food products to our dining room tables. Are some of the methods used to produce meat and poultry dangerous to our environment? An evaluation as to the conditions and how farm animals are raised may inform Americans of the inhumane and often dangerous, unsanitary methods used by our food delivery system. Our cities' schools can develop programs for our children regarding the proper treatment of pets and animals. There is just such a proposal in our own city council. Pet stores should be monitored for safety and humane treatment. Neutering programs of stray animals should be given a priority. My wife, whom I am required to obey, states our society cannot solely be judged by how we treat each other, but also by our relationship to the ecology and other species. Endangered species must be protected. Recently, wolves which are still classified as endangered, are at risk because we have not found a proper balance between rancher and agricultural interests, and those of the wolf.

Saint Francis of Assisi stated, "If you have men who will exclude any of GD's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men." Our nation should shut down puppy mills that abuse and exploit dogs. Circuses must stop inhumane treatment. Horses used to tour Central Park need to be treated humanely and not work in extreme weather conditions. We should make dog fighting and other violent uses of animals unacceptable. Cockfighting and canned hunts are barbaric and we need to end that suffering. Intentional animal cruelty is a sign of a predisposition of violence towards people. If my wife and Saint Francis advocate for animals, who are we not to reconsider our society's need to be stewards of creation?

2) University endowments need to be evaluated. Tax advantages given to those contributing to universities that do not serve the entire larger community and are only a bastion that ensure an inherited elite's continued control over our social, economic and political life, must end. Higher education should be free for all, or at least affordable. Our commitment to education should not be judged by test results. Different theories regarding teaching should be evaluated. Teachers need to understand all students have different learning abilities and styles.

Often we are hesitant to consider change. We fear change. The poor, the homeless, undocumented worker, the victim of unsafe working conditions call out for justice. Change is a threat to our own well being. Will taxes be raised to assist our neighbors? Will our standard of living be lowered? Change is always challenging and fraught with danger. Powerful forces, including many of our most respected individuals, profit by the misery of others. They will fight and may use violence if their comfortable lifestyles are at risk. Developers and major corporations now use the concept of eminent domain to confiscate the private property of citizens for profit making purposes. This can damage communities and destroy the concept of economic fairness.

This issue must be addressed.

Using others as a commodity did not end when slavery was abolished. Our shared racial history is fraught with horrific incidents to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, history demands we still strive for justice. Union membership needs to be encouraged. Industrial accidents need to be as a result of fate, and not because of conditions that invite death and injury. Employees should not be considered freelancers simply to avoid tax responsibilities and denial of necessary benefits such as overtime compensation, health benefits and retirement contributions.

"The prophet gives priority to the life of justice." (Jeriah22: 2, Isaiah58)

Do we have any modern day prophets running for president? We need to demand that the true leader of this nation be a voice for peace, racial harmony, economic opportunity and justice, environmental protection, and not vote for the person with only the promise of change.

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