Left Justified: Representation but no admittance

A mother’s son is killed in Iraq. She grieves. She questions how her son died. She also questions the whole Iraq War. She goes to her congressman’s office but is denied an appointment. Maybe the staff is being overprotective, but doesn’t she have the right to stand before her representative? Apparently not.

Rosemarie Slavenas’ son died three years ago while piloting a helicopter in Iraq. He served with the Illinois National Guard and was killed by enemy fire. The “gold star” mother wanted to ask Congressman Don Manzullo about her son’s death, but his office refused her an appointment.

Rosemarie came to a Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee meeting and told her story. The Committee voted to take this up with our congressman and demand a meeting.

RP&JAC is planning a peaceful demonstration starting at 2 p.m., Jan. 16, in front of Congressman Donald Manzullo’s district office, 415 S. Mulford Rd., here in Rockford.

The purpose of the demonstration is to request an appointment with the Congressman. Rockford Peace & Justice members will meet in the parking lot by the office and send a delegation to try to get an appointment. They will not blockade the office or obstruct access in any way, but we hope to get the attention of the congressman and his staff.

Congressional offices should be open to constituents. Whether the congressman agrees with us or not, we should be able to speak with him about our concerns. Some of those concerns can be delivered through his aides, but Rosemarie Slavenas was denied access even though she wanted more information about her son’s death in Iraq. The congressman and his staff knew that she was against the war.

At this point, we are demanding that the office have a more open-door policy to its constituents. We will stay there until we receive a date when we can meet with the congressman, where we can express our concerns about the war. We will wait outside until the office closes or until we are successful. This will be a peaceful demonstration. Monday, Jan. 22, we’ll have a public meeting to talk about his response, and the Iraq war, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford.

A representative to Congress should at least hear the other side of an issue. Maybe the Congressman has become callous over the years. He once said that a person should limit his term to 12 years. That was more than 14 years ago.

Surely, even the opposition has a right to representation. And yes, sometimes the passion of the constituent does carry the issues away. But the congressman’s ear should be open to all.

I’m sure if Sundstrand Corporation or one of the many Defense Department contractors in the 16th Congressional District wanted a meeting with Rep. Manzullo, his office would say yes. So, what about a bereaved parent who believes her son died for a less-than-noble cause?

I hope the Congressman reads this newspaper, and will grant us an appointment. Maybe you will advise and encourage him.

Whether we agree or disagree about the war in Iraq, we should all agree that our congressional offices should be more accessible.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Jan. 10-16, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!