The Norman Transcript

June 28, 2013

Writer should have made arguable points

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

Perhaps it is old-fashioned to expect editorial space to be used for making arguable points rather than name calling, but that is my expectation.

I was disappointed to see that Guy Melton used his space June 21 as a forum to call President Obama names. He picked out a few words like Benghazi, debt, homosexual and socialist, removed them from any identifiable context and used them as epithets. The possibility that arguments could and should have been made for each specific point doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind.

NSA, for one. From the tone of the letter, I assume that he believes that domestic surveillance was acceptable under the Bush administration but incipient totalitarianism under Obama. Or perhaps Mr. Melton fears that this is systemic threat to government. There is no way for the reader to know.

Socialism. I don’t understand why Mr. Melton believes the president is a socialist, nor do I understand why he disapproves. I was raised in the confines of what I consider a great bastion of American socialism and social mobility that we know as the United States Air Force. My father was a career officer and I spent my childhood on military bases. In the early ’60s we lived on Whiteman AFB outside of Knob Knoster, Mo.  

 The military is an actual melting pot with people of different races and religions mingling freely. On the base, a black officer and close neighbor was valued for his wit and intelligence — not so much off base.

My father and his fellow officers canceled an office party they’d scheduled at a bowling alley when informed that the owner wouldn’t allow a black officer in service of his country in his club. No doubt my father’s friend, who I recall as a gracious and dignified individual, suffered other indignities, but I’m not aware of them. He didn’t complain.

Officers and enlisted personnel lived close to one another in similar neighborhoods. Their kids went to the same schools and everyone had good health insurance and secure employment. Nobody was getting rich and nobody was really poor. Everyone was serving their country instead of themselves. I don’t know what Mr. Melton would call it, but I call it socialism.

The world I lived in 50 years ago was a lot different than today’s world. The country’s industrial base had yet to relocate to the third world to avoid paying decent wages. Everyone seemed to be doing OK. That’s not how it is now.

I’ve just retired from a teaching career spent in mainly low-income schools. I’ve attempted to teach too many kids who were poorly clothed and fed and lacking access to decent health care. Teaching a kid who is hungry or cold or wheezing from untreated asthma because he can’t afford an inhaler is difficult.

At the school where I taught this final year, we had kids lined up every morning from the front to the back of the building for the free and reduced breakfast every morning. The government could provide a little less socialism and they could all starve, though I doubt any of us would want that. It could provide a little more socialism by lifting the minimum wage and providing single-payer health care so poorer people could actually take care of their kids. I’d like to see that.

From where I stand, the rich continue to get richer while the poor are getting poorer. I really don’t know why Mr. Melton thinks the president is a socialist. I really don’t.   

About the only thing that I could understand from Mr. Melton’s letter is that he is upset. Aren’t we all?

One of the things that frightens me the most is that the right and the left inhabit alternate conceptual worlds. We spend our energy screaming at one another across an ever widening gulf. Insults don’t communicate. They alienate. If we lower the volume, we can narrow the gulf. Then perhaps we can hear one another.

Mack Paul