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Letter: Concerns about Westrom’s political agenda

You should be very concerned about the political content of Sen. Torrey Westrom’s editorial “Bullying Bill bullies its way through the legislature.” Westrom opposed the bill because it “will place undue burden on local school districts.”

What I love about the United States is its claim that it supports everyone’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Admittedly, the United States has not always lived up to that ideal. But over the last 200 years, our country has made incredible progress in making that ideal a reality for all Americans.

Take, for instance, the situation of Catholics. The U.S. is primarily Protestant, so in the nineteenth century, the Bible was taught in public schools. But the King James Bible of the nineteenth century contained a dedication that referred to the Pope as a “man of Sinne” and a preface that dubbed the Catholic Church illegitimate. Feeling threatened and attacked, Catholics in Ohio appealed to the courts in order to have the Bible removed from the public school classroom, and in 1872, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with Catholics and ruled it unconstitutional to teach the Bible in public schools. It did this to ensure that Catholics, as a minority, have the same right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the majority, the Protestants in this case.

In 1954, the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling outlawed segregation. It did this in order to protect the rights of blacks, another minority group in the U.S. This cost the country a lot of money and involved huge sacrifice. But it was done for the right reason: the majority whites were unwilling to give blacks what they deserve, which is an equal chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So the courts forced white Americans to give black Americans what is rightfully and constitutionally theirs.

Westrom wants us to wait for local governments to craft anti-bullying legislation on their own. We have been waiting and waiting and waiting, but the problem of bullying is still plaguing Minnesota, though it is worth noting that Morris, to its credit, has been exceptionally proactive in combating bullying. Implicit in the anti-bullying bill is this claim: all Americans, whether Catholic, black, Muslim, or gay, have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Targeted groups do not want to take any rights away from the dominant group. They just want to enjoy the same privileges and rights accorded the dominant groups in the United States.

At stake in this legislation is not just a bill protecting targeted minorities – gays and lesbians are the primary target in schools today. It is about safeguarding the most treasured ideal on which this country is based, which is the belief that all Americans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Westrom does not favor the anti-bullying legislation because it is too costly. But I love the United States because it is willing to spend money (our tax dollars) in order to ensure that all Americans, especially those who have been targeted by the larger community, get what they are promised by our Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by our Constitution.

Lacking in Westrom’s response is the spirit of American generosity and sacrifice that has made this country a model of freedom for everyone.