Response to Aron Wieder

 

The idea that there is a conspiracy to take away the right of East Ramapo residents to vote is dead wrong. However, as patriotic Americans we understand that no nation under God should forget its responsibility to provide “liberty and justice for all”.

 

Throughout our history, the American dream promised to each and every one of us the chance to create a prosperous life lived in harmony with our neighbors where we could make a home, raise our children, practice our faith, have a good job, achieve physical security from war and crime, realize material security for our elderly and disabled, and to be able to follow our passions.

 

High quality publicly funded education has been a necessary component in the special American mix of universally provided governmental services and a private enterprise system open to all to enable each of us to achieve his or her own dream. How many of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents came to this country and found their paths to achieving that dream and not simply living a bare minimum existence. To us, real freedom is the chance to live rich, fulfilling lives shared in local communities but with a culture and society that is national in character.

 

Lest we forgot, so much of American history has been about the endless struggle of bringing real freedom to all of us and conquering what divides us in order to create “a more perfect union.” We lived through times when “No Irish Need Apply” signs were everywhere, where we limited our dream by excluding first Asians and then people from Eastern and Southern Europe including, Italians, Jews, Greeks and dozens of other ethnic groups. Latinos experienced discrimination even though many lived here through the conquest of the Southwest as our nation grew. We still see hatred and fear motivating many who do not wish to recognize their value to our nation and wish to deny them a path to full citizenship. While that struggle continues, gay citizens are fighting and winning the right to freely choose to marry.

 

The group that faced the greatest hurdles was the one group enslaved for generations, African Americans. It was democratically elected governments where those with the right to vote exercised it first to enslave our brothers and sisters and then to deny them a full right to participate in America’s freedom and its promise.  People exercising their right to create voting majorities instituted segregated second class schools and denied African American children the opportunity to go to state supported universities among so many other freedoms denied. The lasting effects from centuries of injustice can still be seen in data on minority employment and on the rising inequality in America.

 

Legislator Wieder stands with those who deny that American have a right to basic justice and equality by arguing that majority vote rules no matter what. The freedom to vote is not the freedom to hold down our neighbors and our neighbors’ children. No one is denying the right of any parent to send their children to private school but the actions of the democratically elected Boards of Education over the past ten years have forced most if not all budget cuts on our public schools not recognizing the rights of public school children to the high quality education guaranteed by our state constitution.

 

Until the members of the Board of Education recognize that these actions are morally and legally indefensible and until they proclaim that public education is a public good, then a strong state monitor is needed. I hope that all communities in East Ramapo and their leaders join together to implement a new state monitor law. Perhaps, one day in the future, we will forget Legislator Wieder’s ill-advised comments and wonder why we ever needed a state monitor at all.

 

Bruce Levine