To the editor:

As I read Father Gariboldi’s recent testament to the importance of social justice and electing individuals to public office who understand the importance of social justice (Midweek Musings, Wednesday, Oct. 24), several things crossed my mind.

One was that it has been a very long time since we have seen many candidates for public office who talk about social justice and setting America on a better and fairer course actually get elected.

As a result, a disturbingly high number of Americans, both liberals and conservatives alike, seem to have lost almost all faith in government having a role to play in addressing the myriad issues and challenges confronting us today.

Now, government has never been the only player in addressing the problems confronting us, nor should it be. But the cynicism and suspicion about government that now infect the body politic of this nation is not just sad, it is dangerous — especially to the democratic form of government we all, Democrat, Republican, and Independent alike, claim to hold so dear.

Our system of government, over the last three decades, has devolved into little more than an oligarchical wolf wrapped in a democratic sheep’s clothing.

Yet anyone who points out these realities is often dismissed and disparaged by those, on both the Left and the Right, who see such criticisms as a threat to the current status quo — from which they all benefit politically and economically.

In his column, Father Gariboldi mentioned his admiration for a man who is also a hero of mine. I am, of course, referring to the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.

Archbishop Romero was a man who challenged the status quo in his own nation - and he paid with his life for doing so. Romero spoke out bravely against the economic injustice and government corruption that resulted in the impoverishment of millions and the enrichment of a select few.

By doing so, he angered not only the rich and powerful of his own country, but also the rich and powerful in the United States, and even Rome or, more specifically, the Vatican.

The Right in El Salvador, and their allies in the United States and Rome, feared Romero was a dupe of the Leftists and a threat to transnational corporate interests in the country. The Leftists, on the other hand, were suspicious of Romero’s adherence to the teachings of the Gospels, viewing him as a naïve man who could not be fully trusted — who, in fact, posed a threat to their attempts to overthrow the capitalist right wing government and install a communist regime.

In short, “Don Oscar” made a lot of people uncomfortable — not to mention angry.

But he crossed a line with the U.S.— backed right wing government when he called for the U.S. trained, right-wing, death squads to lay down their weapons and stop killing tens of thousands of poor campesinos on behalf of a government that served only the interests of the wealthy, select few.

The next day, Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying Mass by a senior military officer who not only was never charged for the crime, but went on to become president of El Salvador.

I share this because I wonder if we can still bring about change at the ballot box.

That’s why getting out to vote today is so important — especially for those of us who still believe that social and economic justice are not just noble ideals, but attainable goals.

MICHAEL COOK

Gloucester