Enough is enough: Different view has right to be heard
Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 8:01 pm
By: Richard Chesteen
By RICHARD CHESTEEN
I have stood silent for awhile as I have seen your paper used to belittle my political party, its leaders and the programs it has promoted. Enough is enough. The scale has been unfairly weighted. A different view has a right to be expressed. This letter is not an attempt to persuade anyone to my point of view. Rather it is simply an effort to state and defend a different perspective.
America is a great nation. It is not a “Christian nation,” a “Muslim nation,” a “Buddhist nation” or an “atheist nation.” Most of those who founded this nation were Protestant but they knew well the danger of mixing state and religion. That was why they sought to separate the two in the civic arena. That is not to say we have not breeched that separation at times because of certain traditions and practices that are a part of our nation’s heritage.
As one Supreme Court justice stated, “It is not the purpose of government to be hostile to religion. Yet, as our nation has become more culturally diverse, the sensitivity to be fair to all means that there will be more controversy about government recognition or non-recognition of one religion’s beliefs and not another. To the extent that my party has sought to be fair and just to all religions I believe it has acted properly and in the spirit our forefathers would have favored. It was Jesus who recognized the separation between an earthly kingdom and a heavenly kingdom when he declared, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”
Second, our nation is far too violent. It Is not because people have access to handguns but because of our failure to respect their main purposes: survival and protection. Because of this we have created a law enforcement establishment and authorized it under oath to see that those who would utilize such weapons for unlawful purposes be removed from the public square. At times extra persons have been authorized to share in such responsibility but only under unusual circumstances. Even those who are professionally trained know that when they unholster a weapon they are putting their career on the line if they act irresponsibly. Because we have such a trained law enforcement body, I see no need for pistol-packing papas on school campuses, in public buildings, in our recreational facilities or in our houses of worship. I do not want their protection. I know many of them mean well and would no doubt be willing to act to protect others. Still, it is a place I, as a Democrat and ex-Marine trained to kill, do not believe we need to go.
Third, my Congressman John Tanner and I do not always agree on public issues. That is not because I am right and he is wrong. It is simply because we may look at a situation and see it differently. Congressman Tanner is a politician and a Democrat. These are not dirty words but honorable ones. I am proud of the history of the Democratic Party at the national level when I look at the many federal initiatives that it has promoted that have made this country a better and more just nation. I grew up in the one-party Democratic South that refused to honor its national party platform and I was ashamed of those leaders. Thank God they have been replaced by new ones, such as John Tanner, who seek to support the broad ideals the Democratic Party stands for.
I believe anyone who has studied Congressman Tanner’s voting record would find that it is in the best tradition of those who served before him such as “Fats” Everett and Ed Jones. He has sought to reflect the beliefs and wishes of the voters of the Eighth Congressional District while also seeking to support the legislation that his own party has put forth when he can in good conscience. He will not always make all of his constituents happy any more than he will make all his legislative colleagues and leaders happy. It is a balancing act that confronts him and all who hold public office and make decisions. It is politics in action. Not even our current two Republican senators from Tennessee always vote the same. As far as associating him with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Barney Frank, at least he was not a fan of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld. If Congressman Tanner were to do nothing but berate his other colleagues of either party and not make an effort to work with them to solve national problems, not only would the people of the Eight District be negatively impacted but perhaps our nation as a whole. There are many ways to skin a cat. It is the person who “knows” he is always right who so often impedes progress.
Our nation is in trouble. No one president or political party got our country into the situation it is in and no one president or political party will get us out of it. Those who use the various media sources, whether locally or nationally, to stoke fires of hate and disunity rather than to fan for breezes of good will and reconciliation may think they are great citizens doing a proud civic duty. They are not. They belittle themselves far more than those whom they seek to ridicule and castigate. And this is a shame because often these people are really well meaning. But as they say “the road to Hell is paved with good intention.”
Richard Chesteen, a longtime Union City resident, is professor emeritus in political science at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He is former chairman of the Obion County Democratic Party and was a gubernatorial candidate in 1994 Democratic Primary.
Published in The Messenger 9.2.09