Americans are not guaranteed life, liberty, and happiness. We are guaranteed the right to life and liberty, but we are only guaranteed the right to pursue that which we believe would make us happy. Furthermore, both liberty and life are most commonly referenced and protected by the criminal laws: if a citizen cannot afford an attorney, a lawyer is appointed to appear in their case.
But what about non-criminal situations? Do we as citizens have a right to a protection of our life interest outside of the criminal law? I say yes. I say that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people should help preserve the lives of the people. That means more than our government building war machines to destroy the lives of people of other countries and a military bigger than those of the next one hundred countries combined. The government should help protect the life of Americans by allowing every single one of them to see a doctor.
This idea does not make me a socialist, for if I vote for this idea, and strive to make this change with my ballot – I am by definition a democratic American. Who is protecting the interests of American workers if the number one cause of bankruptcy in this country is unpaid medical bills?
We already have the largest health care system in the industrialized western world. Every senior citizen, veteran, service member, and government employee is entitled to health care – and so are those who do not work whether by choice or by disability. The only people denied this “right to life” are the people who are out working to pay for the largest government health care system in the world.
I own two businesses. One is a law firm, the other is a restaurant. No employee of either business has health care. All pay social security taxes. All pay to protect the lives and health of their fellow citizens. All are denied the same right. Is this just? Is this American? Are my employees all socialists for demanding equal treatment? Of course not. They are people who deserve better than the choice between life or bankruptcy, because America is supposed to be the land of equal protection.
I say the candidate protecting workers, is the one claiming that health care is guaranteed by the constitutional right to protect life, and not the person stating life is a commodity, open for purchase in an unregulated capitalist market.
I choose to vote for Barack Obama tomorrow, because I believe that he understands working America. He does not have eight houses, and he was not the pick of the establishment, but he is the People’s choice. Nearly fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” But this election is not about country – it is about government. Should people only serve the government, or should the government serve the people?
I cared for my grandmother in her last years. She suffered terribly at the end of her life, but I miss her anyway. She was a fierce democrat who lived through the Great Depression and the era of just wars. She instilled many of my values of fairness and justice. In college, in the 1940s, she threatened to resign as President of the Mortar Board Honor Society, unless the group would admit blacks. She demanded change, and it happened. When she died, as a token of her thanks for caring for her, she left her car to me. I have driven it for nearly eight years now, throughout the Bush Administration’s tenure. Throughout a time of turmoil, warrantless wiretaps, racial and religious profiling, and suspension of habeas corpus, this car did its duty. This car purchased by her husband, my grandfather, who fought in the South Pacific in WWII, plodded along, mile after mile, taking me through my journey of life.
Last night, in the early hours of Monday morning, it was parked on the street along the curb in front of my house. At 4:04 a.m., a drunk driver careened into the car and smashed it to pieces. The drunkard’s car tilted on its side and slid down the street. This physical memory of my grandmother was destroyed. The drunk got out, and she was wearing a sweatshirt. It read, “I am a competitive drinker with a bad bowling habit.” It was a metaphor for the state of America today.
America is a drunken, bloated buffoon right now, so motivated by selfishness that it is destroying itself and the beauty of the world around it. We are polluting our planet, bombing the citizens of other nations, destroying the economies of markets and countries around the world, and the lungs, liver, colon, kidneys, and most importantly – the heart of this county have had all that they can take. We need to see a doctor. We need to get healthy. We need to protect our life, our liberty, and our right to the pursuit of happiness.
Each day in Memphis when I drive to work, I drive down a street so filled with history, most people in this town of no idea what has happened all around them. On one side of the street is the grave of a brave and daring Civil War General. He dared to stand up to his government, and demand change. He is now forever famous for his deeds. One of his last acts was to found the Ku Klux Klan in the 1860s. Across the street is the building where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to the mountaintop in his final speech, the night before he was assassinated on April 4th 1968. He was also a man who stood up to his government and demanded change. I am reminded daily of what a man can achieve, and of the power of change. On the next block I turn right, and Sun Studios is on the corner. It is a place where B.B. King and the Howlin’ Wolf made music with Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. It is a glorious testament to racial harmony in America. As I make the turn, I am always hopeful for our future.
At nearly the same moment I was losing a big piece of my grandmother, Barack Obama, also lost his grandmother. Though I was sick of hearing speeches, I paused to watch him one final time today as a candidate. I was sad to know that the women who raised him would not see him reach the mountaintop. I saw him carry on through his campaign, showing bravery to the nation, showing dignity, and showing courage. Just for a moment, as he spoke about his grandmother, he began to tear up. I smiled at him through my television.
I smiled, because as I sit here, watching him deplane at 1:00 a.m. and end his campaign, I know that tomorrow, at 4:04 p.m., I will walk into the polling center in my neighborhood. I will remember what happened at 4:04 a.m. today, and on 4/04 forty years ago in this town, and I will cast my vote for change. I will cast my vote for racial equality, and for a government who respects and serves its citizens. I will cast my vote for a statesman who is a man of dignity unlike any that I have seen before. I will cast my vote for Barack Obama. Then I will make that drive towards my office, in a new and different car, but I will make that same turn at Sun Studios. And I will drive all the way to the end of this great city block of American culture, and ingenuity, and racial cooperation. And then I will go into the Barack Obama victory party and celebrate the coming of an era of healing change for America.
I will celebrate a return to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. A return to America’s core values, is the kind of change I believe in. Like the others in this book, I support Barack Obama – we are the ones . . .
Michael R. Working