The following is a letter I recently wrote to Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
Dear Senator Obama:
My name is Neil Aquino. I live in Houston, Texas. I am writing to tell you how disappointed I am with your characterization of the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota as a “gadfly.”
Senator Wellstone was a great champion of liberalism. His vote against the Iraq War, his advocacy of issues for those suffering from mental illness and his willingness to stand for his liberal beliefs remain a source of inspiration to many Americans.
You appear to see Senator Wellstone’s legacy as being little more than that of a nuisance.
Norm Coleman and his allies used lies about behavior at Senator Wellstone’s funeral for political gain in Mr. Coleman’s campaign against Walter Mondale. Now it appears you are modeling yourself on Senator Coleman’s shameful conduct. You’ve twisted Paul Wellstone’s record after his death to signify you are more a centrist than a liberal.
Maybe you are more to the center than to the left. That is a matter between you and the people of Illinois. I just wonder why you picked such a lousy way to make the point.
Such conduct may, or may not, help you politically. It will never, however, win you the respect who people who have given much effort to elect candidates such as Paul Wellstone, or, before these unfortunate remarks, you.
As an active participant in the process who discusses politics with many different people around the country, I had looked forward to your political career and the optimism it seemed to represent. Now I don’t feel that way at all.
A report in the June issue of the American Sociological Review says many Americans have few or no family or friends with whom they can discuss important personal issues.
The report cites a number of reasons for this state of affairs. People are working long hours and have less time for relationships. Since women have entered the workplace in great numbers they have less time for social networking.
Other factors cited were an increase in commute times and time spent watching TV and, as I’m doing right now, sitting in front of a computer.
I’m sure all this is all true. An article published in American Sociological Review no doubt passed a rigorous process of academic review and conformation.
But I think some reasons were left out.
Maybe people would have richer social lives if they did not invest so much energy in hating other people. Political attacks against immigrants and gays are all the rage in some circles. Pushing people away is not a good way to have friends.
People of all colors might have richer social lives if they not assert the worst about people who are different. Living in Houston, I’ve heard black people criticize Vietnamese people and Chinese people criticize black people. Everybody has a gripe about everybody else.
Perhaps working hours could be cut back if people who already have everything they need in life would scale down their material ambitions.
Maybe working hours could be cut back if people stopped voting for candidates who support profits for the few instead of decent lives for the many.
People are free to vote for gay-baiting estate tax repealing right-wingers. But these acts have consequences and an impoverished social life may be one of them.
It’s possible many of these right-wingers know just what they are doing and value their hatreds more than the more hopeful aspects of life.
The political liberal is well-equipped to work past some of the barriers modern life throws up against a healthy social life. He or she is able to embrace a broad definition of family, community and personal fulfillment.
It’s easier to have close and trusted friends when you are accepting of many different types of people. It’s easer to have friends when you apply some imagination and effort to your relationships. Good friends can often be found by simply working hard at existing relationships and never giving up on a relationship even if you have lost touch for a time.