Column: Wellstone, and liberals like him, have served us all well

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 31, 2002

I write this column in deep sadness, grieved by the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone. It is my conviction that his passing brings loss not only to Minnesota, but to the entire nation.

I admired him for the daring he displayed in entering the political arena in the first place against fearful odds. I admired him for his concern for those among us, who having neither money nor power, stand most in need of a champion. I admired him for his courage in standing against our invading Iraq.

There were those who criticized him for running for another term after promising that he wouldn’t. I, myself, have always accepted the adage that reads, &uot;A wise man sometimes changes his mind, a fool never.&uot;

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Moreover, one should never be too credulous when listening to campaign speeches. There was after all a bit of a warning in the fact that Sen. Wellstone didn’t bolster his promise not to seek a further term by voicing that ultimate profound and eloquent vow, &uot;Read my lips.&uot;

Most of all I admire his integrity in frankly taking pride in being a liberal. There has been in the last several years a tendency to make the term a pejorative. Only a week or so ago I inadvertently found myself listening to the televised meeting of the Christian Coalition.

A senator whose name and state had been announced before I ran across the program ended it with a passionate plea to his audience to go out and &uot;vote against every liberal on the ballot. Then God will be pleased with you.&uot;

Recently I heard on television a school teacher from the Religious Right talking about her rights. Among them I gather was her right to go into a public school and teach her brand of religion to the children there regardless of their religious backgrounds.

Hitler was an impressive example of how the big lie told over and over can eventually come to be accepted by those far too intelligent to have previously even considered it.

The big lie told over and over in this country is that prayer is forbidden in our schools. What is forbidden &045; and as far as I know always has been &045; is prayer presented officially. If it ever is, the very people now demanding prayer in schools are going to screech the loudest when they find the prayer being delivered is not the prayer they had in mind.

The Bill of Rights, providing, among other rights, freedom of religion is there through the inspiration of liberals: a group of people who wanted a country in which citizens could worship according to their conscience, but not impose their convictions on others.

I am old enough to remember those who voted against Franklin Roosevelt for president because at some point in his political career he had been instrumental in making it unlawful in New York to ask candidates for teaching positions about their religious beliefs.

I also remember a croup of fundamentalist women, trembling under the &uot;threat of Rome&uot; going through my hometown with petitions to get certain teachers removed because they attended the &uot;wrong&uot; church.

It troubles me when any president, or other political leader, throws in with a group that seeks from the rest of us conformation to their concepts of morality.

When I hear television ministers blaming terrorist attacks on the Women’s Liberation movement, I remember a remark attributed to the German poet, Goethe, &uot;Nothing is more dangerous than organized ignorance.&uot;

As far as liberalism goes &045; Jose Ortega y Gasset, perhaps, said it best, &uot;Liberalism is the supreme form of generosity. It is the right which the majority accords to minorities and hence it is the noblest cry that has ever resounded in the planet.&uot;

It seems to me that one of the highest tributes that can be paid to Paul Wellstone is that he so perfectly served that cause.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.