Saturday, July 5, 2014

America: A Good Idea Gone Bad

 I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so apathetic about the Fourth of July fireworks. When the cashier at my local newsstand asked me if I was going to see the fireworks yesterday, I was like, “Nah, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.” (The crowds of tourists taking over my city doesn’t help, either.)
While that may be true, it dawned on me this morning that there may be some deeper reason why I don’t feel like taking party in this annual orgy of national celebration and chest-thumping: I’m embarrassed to be American.
Well, not exactly.
The truth is, I’m very proud to be American, if by American you mean the ideals set forth by our founding fathers, namely that this is a land of opportunity where all men (and women) are created equally. But lately it seems as if we’ve become a perversion of who we say we are and more people are coming to the realization that the system is rigged against us.
Once again, I’m looking at the very real possibility of being out of work, right after I spent nine painstaking months to find the job I currently have. Despite this week’s jobs report crowing about the best job numbers in years, the reality is that wages are stagnant and the number of people who have been unemployed for over six months is higher than it’s ever been.
This year, the Fourth of July fell against a backdrop of images of immigrant children showing up at our doorstep in huge numbers and being met by an equally large number of Americans (ironically, children of immigrants themselves) forming a human wall to keep them out. They might as well have been armed with pitchforks and torches, so ugly was this picture.
I admit, I’m at a loss for how to deal with this new wave of children arriving in our country. At the least, it strikes me as very irresponsible of their parents to send them on such a dangerous journey without an adult. (If I was a parent, I wouldn’t send my child unaccompanied to the corner deli for a quart of milk, let alone across several national borders! Remember Etan Patz?) On the other hand, the level of violence and lack of opportunity in their own country must be staggering for any parent to even consider this as a viable option.
But I digress.
On a whole host of issues, from abortion to gun control, it seems like the reality of our country is out of synch with its stated ideals. We pride ourselves on having individual choice and yet it’s become harder than ever for a woman to choose what to do with her own body. (And, even more frustratingly, those decisions are being made, primarily, by men.) We say that we’re a country that places the health and safety of our citizens above all else, and yet many of us don’t have access to healthcare, are affected by gun violence, or have to worry about the safety of our food and drinking water.
So, on this Fourth of July, I would urge every American to remember the country we say we are and work harder to make sure our government not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.
Happy Fourth, everyone!

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