Why I still believe in the American system
by Jerry Gilio
October 6, 2006

I requested that my friend, saramerica, who I dubbed "The Mistress of Political Misery", try taking a look on the sunny side of politics for a change. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

As much as I bitch about George W. Bush and the various other Republican thugs currently in power and what a deplorable affront they are to the American political system, I haven't given up on that system. The three biggest reasons for this are my representatives to the U.S. Congress.

The senior senator from Illinois is Dick Durbin. Senator Durbin has consistently proven an excellent agent of my positions on the issues. He has proven this repeatedly with his votes rather than with empty rhetoric.

He has opposed constitutional flag desecration amendments. He has done this even though he clearly stated in his response to my letter that he does not approve of flag desecration. He understands that the U.S. Constitution is no place for government-mandated limits on expression.

He feels that government-funded stem cell research should be more extensive than allowed by the current administration. I heard this from his own lips at a fundraiser. However, politicians are notorious for telling their donors whatever they think they want to hear. But then Bush used the first veto of his presidency to block H.R. 810, the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005." I was proud to see that one of the voices conspicuously raised to condemn this veto was that of Dick Durbin. It was a show on integrity that made me feel good about my senator.

His statement regarding the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay made him the target of intense criticism. Of course, his actual statement was distorted and misrepresented for political purposes. What he really did was read some of the horrific details of detainee treatment from an FBI report. Then he added, "If I read this to you and did not tell you it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings." Now, as our president openly campaigns for the right to torture prisoners, the suggestion that we may be acting like the Bad Guys seems more credible than when Durbin said it. One of the few times the senator has disappointed me was when he apologized for saying this. Speaking an unpopular truth isn't easy, but it doesn't require an apology.

I've also had the good fortune to see Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) leave the senate to be replaced by Barak Obama. Senator Fitzgerald was my worst nightmare, voting against my interests at every turn and negating Senator Durbin's vote. Senator Obama is like a breath of fresh air.

Finally, I got redistricted so that my U.S. Representative is now Luis Gutierrez. At first, I found his priorities a little different from mine. However, he was a huge improvement over William O. Lipinski, my previously horrific representative. Over time, Rep. Gutierrez's views became closer to mine on several key issues. Now I typically find myself nodding with approval when I check his roll call votes. He's even stopped voting in favor of flag desecration amendments!

So even though there are plenty of dark clouds hanging over the current political landscape, there is enough light shining through to keep me hopeful for the future. Thanks, Senator Durbin, Senator Obama and Representative Gutierrez. You're helping me retain my faith in the American political system.

Copyright © 2006