On Monday, Sept. 24, Sequoyah County residents participated in a political forum at People, Inc.’s Conference Center.

The forum wasn’t a debate, per sé. But it sure came close since this served as an exchange of ideas and beliefs on how government should be run in a “friendly” format.

On the state level, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association sponsors speech and debate teams. This gives high school students the opportunity to learn debating skills.

State championships take place in October. At Sallisaw High School, Tammy Barbee serves as the debate coach and students attempt to perfect their skills through repetition — just like Black Diamond athletes.

A debate, defined, is contention in argument. During a debate, questions in the public interest are asked.

Debate is far stronger than deductive reasoning and rhetoric, which is a style of persuasion. To me, the debate is a work of art. And the winner is the one who paints the prettiest picture.

I must take issue with Rogers State University, a junior college located in Claremore that receives state funding.

Rogers State University Public Television General Manager Dan Scheidel told Second Congressional District independent candidate Michael G. Fulks of Heavener not to attend a scheduled debate this month on his campus.

“Invitations have been limited to the party candidates,” Scheidel told Fulks in an e-mail that was also disseminated to the media.

Only Democratic hopeful Rob Wallace and Republican Markwayne Mullin will be allowed to speak.

Even though the editor isn’t a total supporter of Fulks’ campaign or his message, this directive is flat out wrong.

It’s quite interesting because Mullin has avoided debates and political forums altogether.

Mullin was a no-show at our city’s political forum, which was put on through the generosity of the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce and shown locally on DiamondNet cable.

Scheidel’s actions illustrate how varying viewpoints don’t always get a reservation at the table, especially if one happens to be an independent candidate.

But, I’m not alleging or insisting that special interest campaign contributions Mullin and Wallace have accepted have anything to do with Fulks not being given a chance to participate in the RSU debate — as Fulks said in a press release e-mailed to Your TIMES last Friday.

The last time the editor checked, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech.

Freedom isn’t an absolute. However, in this case, Fulks isn’t “free” to offer his viewpoint in an academic setting.

Is that the message we really want to get across to students at college campuses, including RSU? If so, clearly the words our forefathers gave to us have been lost in this modern context.

Yes, Mullin was hospitalized in mid-September with a torn esophagus. It started when Mullin began having trouble breathing and swallowing during a Sept. 8 dinner in Muskogee with his family.

Because of this health scare, Mullin was unable to share his ideas with Sequoyah County voters during the forum.

Fellow candidates Fulks and Wallace have both taken Mullin to task for avoiding debates altogether. This has hurt Mullin’s credibility with local voters, in my opinion.

On a national scale, Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney squared off in a debate last Wednesday in front of a national audience.

The event mirrored what happened at RSU.

Other parties weren’t allowed to participate in this debate: Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Reform Party candidate Andre Barnett, Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson, the last candidate the former mayor of Salt Lake City.

Again, a chance to show as many contrasting viewpoints as possible was lost. To the editor, this doesn’t make sense.

Although America has basically been run as a two-party system during the past 150 years or so, divisions in political thought processes are increasing in this country.

The United States is supposedly the vast melting pot of ideas. But, apparently all the cooks aren’t allowed to enter the kitchen.

Granted, I don’t stand for some of the political stances Anderson, Barnett, Johnson and Stein present. But, shouldn’t they have a chance to be heard by a national audience?

In Canada’s House of Commons, seven different political ideologies have at least one seat. Those parties with a voice are: Conservative (163), New Democratic (100), Liberal (35), Bloc Québécois (4), Green, Independent Conservative and Independent New Democratic (one apiece).

To me, it seems more political voices are heard in Canada. Rather than what’s going on here south of the border, where political silence is the sound of music.