By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Four individuals with vastly different “Visions of America” fought it out — figuratively, not literally — during a lively and highly entertaining two-hour discussion in the Campus Theatre on Monday night in an event sponsored by the Susquehanna Valley Conservatives group.
The forum, which pitted two Bucknell University professors advocating a liberal perspective against two conservative speakers, Ana Puig, of the Tea Party, and author and political analyst Andre Harper, was a huge success, with 330 people filling the venerable downtown theater.
John Peeler and Peter Kresl seemed to radiate with overflowing knowledge about the roots of liberalism, while Puig and Harper were emotional at times, even combative, in expressing their distaste for liberal politics.
“You are both highly intelligent people,” Puig said to Peeler and Kresl. “But we two here have street smarts.”
Puig is an immigrant from Brazil who lived in countries around the world before coming to America in the mid-1980s. Harper was raised in the mean streets of West Palm Beach, across the intracoastal waterway from one of the richest enclaves in America, Palm Beach.
“My mother was 16 when she had me,” he said. “I went to a rough school in a tough neighborhood, but I looked at Palm Beach and said, ‘Why can’t I be like that someday?’ And so I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps, without government help.”
What was for the most part a civil discussion on the merits of both liberal and conservative lifestyles and politics devolved toward the end of the forum into name calling, when Puig said she believed liberalism led to communism — at least in other countries — and she didn’t want to see that happen in America. Puig is strongly anti-Obama.
This resulted in one of the few moments when Peeler couldn’t restrain himself, resenting, he said, Puig comparing liberalism to communism.
Time and again, Puig not so subtly said that voting for Obama in November’s election would lead America down the path to mediocrity until we would eventually become a society much like Venezuela, with a ruler like Hugo Chavez.
Meanwhile, Harper maintained that liberals are racists because they stereotype the “underclass. The Nancy Pelosis of the world, they want to keep people down. That’s racism. And I stand by that statement.”
Harper made no excuses for his beliefs. “Take it or leave it,” he said. “I don’t care. That’s what I think.”
Puig and Harper were forceful speakers, strong advocates of their conservative world view, and at times overwhelmed the calm counter-arguments made by the two professors.
It was only toward the end of the forum, when both groups could comment on the other, that the two sides got emotional and got members of the crowd humming under their breaths.
When the forum ended, it left people wanting more.
“I could have stayed another hour or two,” said William Carson, who had driven from Selinsgrove to watch the two sides present their visions.