Jan 27, 2007

To be in America Today

It is a cold January in the year 2007. As I sit here at work my mind is a thousand miles away. It seems these days it is focused on everything, except my work. There are so many tragedies in the headlines these days. I often question how the world survives. This country seems ravaged by so much poverty and social injustice. If only the politicians would focus on the important stuff instead of wasting time and resources on the minor things. The eyes of the present administration seem to be on Iraq and the war. They worry about terrorism and oppression of the weak in the Middle Eastern countries. I can’t help but think though that here, in America; we already have the worst sort of terrorism, a terror from within – the fear of losing everything because of the lack of a good health care system, thousands of homeless, many mentally ill, cast out on the street, forgotten by society until they end up in our overcrowded prison system. We have the elderly, abandoned, often hungry, and left to die alone. There are also thousands of children who desperately need a good education, so that they can pull themselves out of a world of generational welfare. Then, let us not forget the thousands suffering with AIDS, the leprosy of the 21st century! We are a country that caters to the wealthy, where you can only gain popularity in politics if you have lots of possessions. We have taught our children to be more concerned with the latest cell phone design than for each other. We have left behind the lessons of faith and the belief in something higher than the almighty dollar. These are all forms of terror. The definition of terror being: something that scares you to death to think about it. I come from very humble parents. My father who was an auto mechanic; a man who was self taught by hard work; not an overly religious man, but an honest one, who lived his life by a code of unbreakable ethics. He was a person who often did hundreds of dollars worth of mechanic work for 10 or 20 dollars; his explanation being that “people just couldn’t afford all those high bills that the fancy garages charge.” He cared about people and even though there were some who took advantage, my father never lost faith in the basic goodness of people. He was quick to temper though, with a great impatience for politicians who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouth, who he believed showed little concern for the working class and poor. My mother, a very kind person, but who suffered from schizophrenia and later succumbed to lymphoma cancer. I recall the day she found out the diagnosis and came to tell me. She said “I want to so much to live.” I wept deep inside because I knew she would neither receive the very best care, nor the latest treatments. My parents had no money, no health insurance, and no property worth selling to pay for it. When she died the medical bills were in the thousands. The ironic thing was that my dad worked for years paying for health insurance that he never used. Then when he needed it, it was too expensive for him to be able to afford it. I remember as my mother lay in bed almost ready to leave this world. The phone rang in the mobile home where her and my father lived. It was the hospital’s bill collectors. I told them politely with a shaking voice that “it wasn’t the time,’ but they wouldn’t listen. They were rude and indifferent, lacking any compassion. Mom gasped in the background as the person on the phone continued to tell me “it is the right time.” I hung up the phone on them. What was I supposed to do? Mom was in the next room and so was my father. I couldn’t bear for them to hear. Minutes after that call my mom died. She didn’t go quietly. She screamed and gasped for air, she begged for Jesus to help her……and then she was gone. Six months later dad died of a heart attack. All through our years of growing up I often wonder what would have happened to us if we wouldn’t have had the extended family structure of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. It makes one think – what becomes of those children that have no other family. These are the later adults that fill our death row cell blocks and our maximum security correctional facilities. They are the ones who fall through the cracks. It becomes easier to use lethal injection to silence them than to try and change the way things are. We have become a disposable society, not just with household items, but with individuals; those who are too weak or too poor to speak up for themselves; or those who might take a little more time to “fix” we simply “throw away.” Children need to be taught compassion and kindness and as adults we need to lead by example. Today in America there is a growing arrogance. One that perpetuates the belief that everything we do is right and sanctioned by God. I find it hard to believe that God would have ever sanctioned racism (all races, not just black vs. white), economical inequality, war, genocide, poverty, etc… We condemn other countries for committing genocide yet in our own history of the early 1800’s we were the illegal immigrants in this country. We came in to North America from abroad and forced the Native Americans west. Hitler actually patterned his Nazi movement after the American Government’s removal of the 5 civilized tribes. He praised them for their creativity in handling the “Indian problem.” It is a history we tend not to teach, but over 14,000 people were taken at gunpoint and marched west and over 4000 died. Then we took their land and called it our own. So who are we, as a nation, to judge? Our own president Andrew Jackson at that time defied the U.S. Supreme Court and removed the Indians. When we look at the health issue many denounce a Nationalized Healthcare system. Now being married to an Englishman I have heard opinions on both systems – American and the U.K.’s. I tend to believe that if a country that is as old as Great Britain has found a system that works better than ours (although it does have some of its own faults) why shouldn’t we take their health care system pattern and model it for the U.S.? If the countries of this world would work together to find the best solutions for all I think this world would have a lot better future. We are a young nation and the young tend to think they are always right and they oftentimes fail at things because of their own pride. A nation’s youth is really no different than a person’s youth – you learn from your elders. You find what works and what doesn’t work. You follow others examples. It doesn’t make you a communist, socialist, democrat, republican, etc…It is just learning from mistakes of the past. It is being smart. It is my belief that we all come into this world (or we should) with the same rights. If a baby were born in Somalia instead of the U.S. does it make that child any less important? It shouldn’t. We yell about illegal immigration, but yet do we really have the right to stand and say “you can’t live here because you didn’t enter these states legally?” if the Native Americans would have believed that we would not be here today. That being said the past is done and we can not undo those wrongs, however we can work together to insure that history does not repeat itself. We can look at our problems together with an open mind and an open heart. We can embrace the diversity of our nation and find a middle ground. It only takes putting pride and arrogance aside. We need to start caring about one another, work to eliminate the poverty, and the rest will take care of itself. Poverty causes crime, war, disease, etc……. take it out of the picture and enters the strength to build a world that our descendants will be proud of. Restore the teachings of kindness in our schools and ethics. This country needs leadership that truly cares instead of men and women who are so far removed from the common man’s needs that they can not even comprehend what the average American wants. There is a verse in the Bible that says it better. “It is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven.” The classes continue to get further and further apart. We need to unite in a common cause (and not a war) that we all as human beings can be a part of. Every person comes into this world with nothing and when we die we take nothing of this world with us, so why do we tend to focus so much or the material things? A question we all must ask? I don’t think we will ever fall to a foreign government or to terrorism or to war: I think the sad thing is that eventually America will destroy herself if we do not change the way we lead the world. You can not expect a child to only learn the good from his parents. Whatever example is shown is what the child will follow. The same is true for a nation. If we set the example of a nation ruled by only the wealthy, who don’t care about the impoverished, the sick, who act holier than now, materialistic, who are argumentive (congress), etc….what message does it send?

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