How far we have fallen since the days of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the introduction to the Declaration of Independence that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” required that we declare the causes for our separation from England. “Decent respect” for others’ opinions is so rare in today’s political discourse that, fearful of being bitten or battered, one hesitates to enter the fray.
Still, I feel impelled to defend President Obama’s attempt to improve our health care system, even as he is besieged by pit bulls on the right and pecking doves on the left. Someone ought to remind us that we inhabit the same country, and we owe one another and our president a decent respect for his efforts in behalf of the common good.
When our Constitution was created, Federalists and anti-Federalists fought about what sort of democracy we should have. The wise James Madison wrote that both parties should have a strong voice because, in a country as large and diverse as ours, differences of opinion were the result of freedom. Conflict, he said, would lead to compromise. But democratic compromise can only be accomplished in a civil society, one that honors genuine disagreement.
Americans desperately need health care reform. President Obama has established reasonable goals and shown respect for different means of reaching them. Now we need a Congress willing to overcome hostility and pass a health care bill for the sake of the people.
Close the loophole
There was flap about a question at the Associated General Contractors’ forum for the field of gubernatorial candidates this past weekend — “mandatory background checks on the purchase of firearms.” While not posed as a question, most candidates seemed to understand what it meant — to close the gun show loophole — requiring all sales of firearms, not just those from a licensed dealer, to require a background check.
Just two of the 13 candidates stood with the majority of Mainers — Rosa Scarcelli and Eliot Cutler both agree with 88 percent of Mainers (Pan Atlantic, poll, fall 2009) who would support background checks for gun purchases at gun shows.
Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence also agrees with the majority of Mainers. Closing the gun show loophole can help keep guns out of the hands of criminals (11 percent of guns used in the commission of crime in Massachusetts are from Maine) or domestic violence perpetrators (some research shows rates as high at 65 percent for intimate partners killed by handguns). Recently, Maine formed a working group to look at requiring the removal of guns from homes where a domestic violence arrest was made.
Every year in Maine, 200-300 people fail the background check because they were convicted of domestic abuse, a felony or were found to be mentally ill. These people can easily purchase guns through a variety of means including picking up a copy of Uncle Henry’s.
Even 65 percent of NRA members support closing the gun show loophole, according to a poll released in December.
Encourage your candidates to support closing the gun show loophole.
Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence
By way of analogy, the Bible verse Matthew 7:3 describes the columnist Charles Krauthammer’s affliction, which he shares with many conservatives: an inability to see the failures of their policies and a pathological need to malign those who disagree with them ideologically.
Admittedly, a society that applies ethical and legal restraints in treating those who seek to harm it may fail to obtain some useful information. None of us has any way of knowing whether information that could have been obtained by subjecting Umar Abdulmutallab to Cheneyesque interrogation methods was indeed “crucial.” To Mr. Krauthammer it was, because he says so (BDN, Jan. 29).
That may be sufficient evidence for conservatives to condemn the administration’s restraint in treating an enemy of the state. Since they see America’s standing in the world as a function solely of its military prowess, they are deaf and blind to the attractions of moral leadership.
Yet conservatives are utterly silent when, with one ill-considered judgment, five unelected men undo a century of legal restraints on corporate efforts at distorting the political process to their advantage. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the cynical adage — that America is governed by the best politicians money can buy — now risks becoming a statement of fact. Just as consumers are fooled by deceptive product advertising, voters will be misled by unrestrained mendacious and malicious corporate political advertising.
Matthew 7:5 provides a remedy for the conservative affliction: Remove the beam from your eye, then you can help your neighbor remove the speck from his.
H. Peter Muth
Those who deny the humanity of the unborn should see the video that won 11 video awards for the excellence of its research and presentation and has been distributed by National Geographic. This 42-minute DVD, “The Biology of Prenatal Development,” uses a technique called embryoscopy, in which a video camera the size of a pen-point is inserted abdominally or cervically, creating the most vivid, powerful and striking videography of the unborn child that exists. This color imagery of the child from four to 12 weeks after fertilization is light years beyond ultrasound.
It was produced by the Endowment for Human Development and endorsed by numerous medical school professors and experts in embryology. Along with the embryoscopy method, five other medical imaging technologies are used in the video, with commentary on the scientific facts of the child’s development.
Some developmental facts in the DVD include:
The heart will beat 54 million times before birth.
At six weeks the embryo begins making spontaneous movements, touching his/her mouth, etc
At eight weeks, 90 percent of the anatomical structures found in adults are present.
The child’s unique fingerprints exist at 10 weeks — the same fingerprints he/she keeps for life.
Find out more at www.unborn.info. Even Mr. Rees might be shocked to find out what he looked like four weeks after fertilization.
Ron J. Stauble Sr.
Festival – sink or swim
The American Folk Festival has had a free ride long enough. I think if it is planning to get $40,000-plus in city money and then give it back to the city, it sure sounds like Maddof’s Ponzi scheme has come to Bangor. I think it’s time for the folk festival to stand on its own or forget it.
If you want to have it, fence in Main Street, Railroad Street, have a gate and charge admission similar to the Kah-Bang event; seems that they made money.