Our American presidential election is now less than two months away. Let there be no doubt; this is a pivotal election. It is time to step back and ask ourselves some hard questions that go to the very heart of what we believe in and what we want for the future of our country and our younger generations.
And, so, I ask: Who are we, as a people and as a nation? Do we believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What truths do we hold to be self-evident, and are we willing to sacrifice anything for them?
Do we cherish the beauty of this great land and take ongoing steps to preserve our precious national and state parks, our pristine open spaces, wildlife, and our natural resources? Or do we leave them unprotected and “fair game” for the greedy plunder of exploitation?
Do we believe in equal pay for equal work, and for the rights of women to control their own bodies? Is affordable health care for our citizens a priority, so the elderly are not forced to go without the meds they need, and veterans and their families receive timely care and support?
Do we value critical thinking skills in our Supreme Court justices, lifetime appointees nominated by the president? According to a Scholastic.com webpage designed for teachers: “The Supreme Court has a special role to play … The Constitution gives it the power to check, if necessary, the actions of the President and Congress. It can tell a President that his actions are not allowed by the Constitution. It can tell Congress that a law it passed violated the U.S. Constitution and is, therefore, no longer a law ….The Supreme Court is the final judge in all cases involving laws of Congress, and the highest law of all — the Constitution.”
Justices appointed by a sitting President have far-reaching, often permanent, consequences on our daily lives as citizens.
Do we lift up our younger generations with affordable access to higher education, or will it be totally out of reach except for those who can afford it, thus creating an elite ruling class? Do we enslave our children and grandchildren to lives stunted by mountains of student debt?
When we think of the Statue of Liberty and read the eloquent words inscribed on the bronze tablet inside the pedestal and the date held in her left hand, July 4th, 1776 — the same date on which the Declaration of Independence was signed — what do we feel? Do we want to embrace what she beseeches: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ...."? Or do we put them in shackles and shuttle them off to for-profit immigration detention centers?
Do we want to be known internationally as a country which condones torture and so-called “enhanced interrogation,” practices which Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Vietnam War POW, has denounced as “inhumane” and which “compromised our values, stained our national honor, and did little practical good”?
Are we willing to live up to our nickname, the “melting pot,” which embraces differences and respects diversity, rather than fearing them? Do we strive toward social justice and the values of the civil rights movement of which we can, and should, be so proud?
We live in a great country, but quality of life is determined by our basic rights as citizens: civil liberties, privacy, education, access to health care, protection in the workplace, fair wages, healthy air, water, and food, care for the elderly, veterans, and the disadvantaged, among others. These rights erode over time —and can disappear all together — if not carefully protected.
Do we have the courage as a country, and as individuals, to set the example for our children by embracing values which make us a better nation, values which raise the quality of living for ALL of us, no matter the size of our bank account, the color of our skin, the religion we worship, or the creed we espouse? Do we choose to be a voice for all citizens, including those who have no voice? To protect those in need of protection — the sick, the mentally ill, the impoverished? To assist, rather than judge; to rehabilitate, rather than imprison; to cure, rather than reap obscene profits?
We are not always given perfect choices in life, but sometimes a decision must be made, and the stakes are far too high to sit this one out.
One man/woman. One vote. Use it wisely.
But, please, do use it.
Award-winning author, TV presenter and world traveler Susanne Severeid is an Ashland resident who enjoys making time for the important things in life — including mocha. Read more of her columns at bit.ly/adtssmm. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.