Nasty Politics Won’t Balance The Scales | News, Sports, Jobs

Members of the Dunkirk Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps present the colors before the Pledge of Allegiance during Monday’s luncheon.
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As New York state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell stepped forward to speak before a gathering of nearly 130 people earlier this week at the Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon in Dunkirk, he was soon joined by a fellow member from the other side of the aisle. Goodell, a Republican who represents Chautauqua County, stood with Democratic Assemblyman Jonathan Rivera, who serves southern Erie County.

Once Goodell addressed the crowd at the Clarion Hotel, he talked about a bipartisan and unified spirit he shares with Rivera. Though they will not always agree, they see value in standing together when it comes to important issues that matter to all of Western New York.

They then shared in a lighthearted banter on who would speak first. “Age before beauty,” Rivera said.

“I resemble that remark,” Goodell countered, before taking the lead.

On a day the nation paid tribute to a brave, selfless leader in King, the unified spirit of the two men was more than fitting in an era when divisive grudges show no signs of slowing across New York state and the nation. How has this nation, which bonds so strongly in the worst of times, become so hostile when it comes to politics?

Elected officials — on both sides of the aisle — have empowered constituents to draw lines. Minor disagreements on legislation or significant issues regarding how to move forward for our country’s future now rely on the spewing of name-calling and belittling to get a point across.

Social media, for all its positives, has amplified enough of these voices that percolate venom and resentment. It allows for online conversations to become toxic while fringe sites blatantly promote hate and anger.

If residents cannot work together politically, how can we do so on a much larger level as a community?

Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas, the first Hispanic mayor in New York state, is no stranger to these struggles. Nearing the end of his second term in the position, he was much more candid and blunt about the environment regarding race relations in the city he serves at this year’s event.

“As mayor, I have to stand up here and tell you that I’m not afraid to say there is racism in our community,” Rosas said at the event. “If there’s anyone here today who doesn’t believe that, then you’ve never experienced it yourself.”

Soon after he concluded his remarks, applause filled the room. It was a sign that no matter how much progress our nation and area have made in striving for equality, many believe there is still a long way to go.

Following Monday’s solemn ceremonies and services that promoted a sense of togetherness, our nation and its leaders wasted no time on Tuesday in returning to the “my way or the highway” sentiment that has ruined relationships and longtime friendships. Politics has always been a delicate issue to broach at social gatherings. Today it can be a reckless grenade. With the empowerment that comes with social media, many have no problem in pulling the pin.

King never led in that manner. Instead, as Goodell noted, he wanted us all to have an opportunity to live the American dream. “(King) said, ‘Focus on love, not hate,’ “ Goodell reflected. “Focus on the light, and not on the darkness. Focus on what is right and not what is wrong.’ Those are great words, but boy are they tough.”

Rivera, the first Latino elected to state office north of New York City, said the greater goal for all who serve needs to be justice. “Sometimes that doesn’t look peaceful,” he said. “Sometimes that means pushing back. But that’s what we’re here to do and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

John D’Agostino is editor of The Post-Journal, OBSERVER and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.

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