On April 15, I wrote to the remaining presidential contenders — Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich. I noted that issues such as systemic nursing home abuses and cruelty to animals are “of concern to tens of millions of Americans.”
Because the federal government coordinates nursing home regulations and inspections, and because Medicare and Medicaid are the primary payers for nursing home care, I urged each presidential aspirant to speak out about the need for nursing home reform and to develop a plan to better protect nursing home residents, including camera surveillance monitoring.
I also asked Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Cruz, and Kasich to “speak out about the need for more kindness to animals, keeping in mind the words of (the late) Sen. Robert Byrd – ‘Let us not fail in our divine mission. Let us strive to be good stewards and not defile God’s creatures or ourselves by tolerating unnecessary, abhorrent and repulsive cruelty.’ And the words of (the late) Sen. Richard Neuberger –‘I have always believed cruelty to animals is a black mark in Heaven. I realize animals do not vote. They do not make campaign contributions to enrich the coffers of politicians. But I will be their friend. I imagine he who spoke the Sermon on the Mount would want it that way too.’ And the words of Abraham Lincoln – ‘I am for animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.’”
I asked them to publicly express strong support for the efforts of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (CAPC) and for their legislative priorities. In my correspondence, I enclosed an informational packet about CAPC, of which 125 U.S. representatives are members, and a description of 11 bills CAPC strongly supports — ranging from a bill that would make it unlawful for anyone to conduct or commission cosmetics animal testing in the United States to a bill that would ban domestic horse slaughter and stop the export of horses for slaughter abroad.
I received no replies from Clinton, Sanders, Cruz or Kasich. A form letter from The Trump Organization said, “Your suggestions have been taken into consideration and will be regarded with the utmost attention,” but, to date, neither Trump nor Clinton, who are the final Republican and Democratic presidential contenders, have raised the policy issues I urged them to raise in their campaigns.
In April, I sent a copy of my letters to the then-five remaining presidential candidates to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. I advised Cooper that “to the best of my knowledge, the questions you have asked the contenders have not included coverage of these issues. My hope is that you will decide the issues I raised are important enough for you to include in future questions you ask the candidates.” No reply, and CNN staff haven’t raised these issues with the remaining candidates.
Am I overestimating the importance of these issues? I think not. I believe most Americans support the agenda of the Congressional Animal Caucus, as well as other measures that promote kindness to animals.
Considering that half of all women and one-third of all men in America will spend time as nursing home residents, how can nursing home reform be regarded as too unimportant for presidential contenders and other politicians to address? We can also sympathize with the plight of developmentally disabled and other severely physically or mentally disabled citizens who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
“The prison is a dark pocket of mystery and silence,” Tom Wicker wrote in “A Time To Die,” a book about the bloody 1971 Attica prison riot in which 43 people were killed. “As men abhor the unknown, they shun the prison. It is, they tell themselves, none of their business, no concern of the ordinary citizen, who needs never go there”, Wicker suggested. But how can conscientious people not recoil in horror when they learn about atrocities such as the atrocities at Dade Correctional Institution?
In a speech delivered to the American Bar Association, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “A decent and free society, founded in respect for the individual, ought not to run a system with a sign at the entrance for inmates saying, ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.'"
And as Alan Elsner points out in his book “Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in America’s Prisons”: “Try as we might, we Americans cannot separate ourselves from the world of jails and prisons. Ten million people cycle through them every year. The abuses they endure, the diseases they contract, the traumas they suffer inevitably come back to haunt the rest of society. There is no iron curtain separating them from us. They are us.”
All lives matter.
Joel Freedman of Canandaigua is a frequent Messenger Post contributor.