It’s July 4, y’all, the day we celebrate the creation of these (wonderful) United States of American in 1776 with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and I’m back blogging with a vengeance!
I’m not going to pretend the U.S. doesn’t have some pretty great things going for it; if you check out the kind of overt oppression happening the last few months in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, I think all of us citizens of the U S of A can all be thankful to live where we do.
But, if you know me or have read my blog in the past, you know I like to get critical. And I figure what better day than this one, a day we think with inflated egos just how great and awesome we are, to look a little deeper at some of the ways I think we’re getting it wrong:
Economic Disparity: If you ask me, this is from where all the problems stem. We’re a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and with a system where those with money are in power or paying to get their friends into power (see below), the cycle will continue. A few infographics (Inequality, Stupid; 15 Facts) and this amazing article, “Who Rules America,” tell the story pretty well, but the basic idea is that the top 1% of Americans has as much money and wealth as the bottom 90%, a group that itself is fairly stratified. Thus, the $1 you and I might spend on a meal means Oprah gets to spend $90. Does that seem right to you?
“Free” Speech: In the past few years, the Supreme Court has basically determined that the right to free speech means the right to as much speech as you’re willing and able to pay for. This means that should I run for office, I can choose to forgo getting in bed with corporations and wealthy individuals and stay true to my ideals, but if someone else is well-financed, they can pretty much drown out me and my voice. Basically, free speech doesn’t mean equal amounts of speech, and in this game, if you have money, you win and get to make the rules that help you get more money, though this has been true for awhile, it’s just become even moreso as of late.
Health Care: I’m guessing I don’t have to inform you that we still don’t have universal health care. Yes, there was a bill passed that requires everyone to purchase health care, I’m aware, but universal health care this is not. Instead, what this does is create an even a larger pool of participants for private insurance companies to reap more money and profits from the estimated 50+ million without insurance. And with Medicare and Medicaid on the ropes, those who would lose such benefits would now also be required to “buy” insurance, again putting money in the hands of private companies. Why is health care not something we feel is a human right, afforded to everyone, like a high school education?
Education: While we’re on the topic of universal rights, can we discuss the horrific state of the education system of this country? In Chicago, the high school graduation rate in 2010 was only 56% (an improvement from 1999’s 47%, but still a travesty). Big cities across the country have similar stories. A lot of this, again, comes back to money. With all the states of which I’m aware using property taxes to fund education, this means more money is spent on education in wealthy areas than poor areas. And if you have money and don’t like your school system, you either move or simply send your kids to a private school. If we truly valued education the way we give it lip service, we’d fund it as such.
Competitive Eating: If anything is representative of the excess that has become this country, it’s the event held on Coney Island each July 4: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes (and of course the 20 or so other contestants ate a lot, too). Yet there are still families heading to soup kitchens and food pantries because they have nothing to eat. What drives something like this? Well, this year’s event was (again) broadcast live on ESPN, with Pepto-Bismol as a top sponsor. I’m going to guess advertising money.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I don’t have time today to write about issues of housing, transportation, Social Security, unemployment, prisons and criminal (in)justice, war and foreign policy, and many others — I want to enjoy my day off, too!
But as we celebrate today and in days to come, let’s not be complacent with the current ways of our country. We still live in a democracy, which means power to the people if we choose to claim it.
I leave you with a great op-art piece with a humorous look at our nation’s not-always-so-pleasant-looking history: Like It or Unfriend It
(The title of this blog post is meant to be read as an adjective followed by a noun. The second “American,” the noun, is meant to signify that I, being someone living in the U.S., would colloquially be called an American. In the first word, the adjective, I am affirming my belief that to act in an American way is to challenge the status quo and to work to make a better country for everyone — EVERYONE — and that’s what I believe I try to do, and hopefully this blog is just one such example.)
(Oh, and why not a throwback to a post I wrote in September 2007, too: economic oppression)