A year ago, I wrote a blog article about The 5 Best Things About Living in America. As someone who was born and raised in the United States of America, I touched upon a few of the positives, including the diversity and the freedom to do almost anything that you can dream of, but America is not a perfect county by any means. In fact, as someone who has lived in this country for three decades, I can tell you that there are a few things that makes me pause and wonder why it is so great. There are a few things that does happen in even this land of the free that probably wouldn’t be allowed in any other country. And because America is still relatively a young country, we still have our own issues to iron out, borne about from a difficult and fragile past. By talking about these not so pleasant issues can we begin to take the next few steps toward positive change so that America can truly live up to its full potential.
The Right to Own a Gun
A few months ago, I was walking outside my condominium apartment with my two kids as we usually do. Now, bear in mind, my neighborhood is a pretty safe community surrounded by acres of forests and a golf course. But a few months ago, as we were walking outside, we heard what sounded like a gun shot go off in quick succession. It was loud. I saw a couple of birds in the not so far distance scatter. At the time, when I first heard it, I paid it no mind, assuming perhaps naively that someone had shot a gun into the sky, which also sounded rather odd even in my own head.
Later, after our walk when we were safe at home with the doors locked, I found out on Facebook from a friend that there had been a shooting just an hour ago. I connected the dots and knew it to be that shot that I had heard on our walk. Thinking back, I was astounded that I was so close to a shooting incident. I was also angry that someone had brought a gun onto the complex and shot someone.
I am astounded that in America we have the right to own and purchase a gun. I normally don’t think about it because I don’t want to think about the fact that anyone I see on the streets or at a store could have a gun on their person. But deep down, I am scared. Sometimes I am scared to be outside, or anywhere around people, knowing that there are people who own guns. But most of all, I am scared that those guns might be in the wrong hands. After all, we’ve seen what happened recently when a gun was in the wrong person’s hands and they decided to go and kill someone just because of their race, skin color, or simply because they were there.
I know that this freedom to own a gun (the second amendment if you will) will probably never go away, at least anytime soon. Many people in this country furiously defend that amendment as the right to bear arms and to defend themselves. I don’t know if we should have stricter protocol on who can purchase and own a gun. I don’t know if we should just eliminate guns entirely. I don’t know if we should focus on helping people with mental health issues or eliminating racism and hatred. There isn’t really a clear cut answer to this multifaceted problem. I just know that I do get scared in this supposedly great country of the free simply because people are allowed to possess and carry a gun.
Lack of Universal Health Care
In America, unlike many developed countries around the world, we don’t have a universal health care. In America, healthcare is privatized so each individual American is responsible for their own healthcare. This means that Americans can elect to purchase an insurance plan either privately or through their job, or they can choose to forgo having any health insurance. Many times Americans don’t have health insurance simply because they can’t afford it. Let’s face it, health insurance in this country is expensive. And if you want the best, then you can expect to pay top dollar for it.
In this country, we do have a health care option for people who are extremely low income or people who are elderly and retired (Medicare / Medicaid). While this is a great option for people who are low income, the problem is that it covers only a select group of people who are under a certain percentage under the poverty line. Another problem is that not every hospital or doctor takes this form of insurance. It’s possible that you may have to settle for substandard service, or not have the freedom to choose the doctor that you want for your needs.
During the Obama Administration, President Obama introduced ObamaCare, which was I believe an attempt at universal health care. It is a marketplace in which people can purchase health insurance at a lower cost with some help in the form of government subsidies. It is an option for those who are self-employed and thus may not have the option of getting health insurance through their job. It is also an option for those who don’t qualify for Medicaid. But the problem with this is that, again, not every doctor or hospital will take the health insurance you purchase through Marketplace, resulting in possibly substandard or inadequate care.
Not having universal health care is, I believe, a serious concern for America. And yet, I don’t see it coming to fruition anytime soon. It is my understanding that many Americans want the option to choose, whether or not to have insurance. They want the freedom to choose an insurance instead of having just one universal healthcare. They also don’t want the government to tax them even more than the government already does. But I think that the Medicaid program should simply be expanded so that more people (if not, all people) can be eligible. We already pay for this program through our taxes, so why not expand it so that more people can benefit from something that we are already paying for? Also, wouldn’t we pay less ultimately through a universal healthcare than through what people pay now (which is sometimes hundreds of dollars a month), saving money in the long run?
And the way that it stands now, it feels if this country doesn’t care about its people and their health. If people are allowed to just die simply because they don’t have the right health insurance, then what kind of country is this? If people aren’t allowed to have the best quality care possible simply because they don’t have the money or resources, then again what kind of country is this? I believe that a country whose primary focus is the long term health and longevity of its people is a country that will ultimately thrive.
How White is the Default Race of America
Anyone who lives in this country knows that white is the default race of America. It is everywhere. First, have you noticed that people who are perceived as white are just called Americans, even those who are in fact immigrants from a European country? And yet, people who are not perceived as white are identified as African American, Asian American, Mexican American, Native American, and so on, even those who are fifth or sixth generation Americans? People who are not white have these additional monikers attached to American, as if they are not American enough. It suggests that minorities are just immigrants — backward, exotic, different, and not white.
Second, in the media, in politics, and in everywhere important, there are white people. Of course, people of European descent are still the majority race in America. So, from that standpoint, it makes sense that there would be more representation. But at the same time, when you have exclusively white representation in all areas that matter, then it makes you think that America — the country of immigrants — is really a country full of white people. That is why when someone sees someone who doesn’t quite look like their definition of what a white person should look like, they get curious and ask that infamous question where are you from? or what is your nationality?. That is why anybody who is non-white is perceived as foreign and consequently un-American.
It boggles me that America is viewed as a country in which only white people are Americans. Actually, I would even say that many people view white and black people as Americans and view Latinos and Asians as foreigners, thanks to the media as depicting them as people who came to this country illegally or spoke broken English. And that is disappointing. America is a country of immigrants. It has always been that way from the very beginning. There is no true American as all of our ancestors have come from Europe, Asia, Africa, and everywhere in between. In fact, my own ancestors have come to this country seeking a better life across many different countries.
And yet, even today in 2021, America is still seen as a white man’s land and not as the land for everyone and anyone seeking a better life. It is why just a few years ago, the then-president wanted to build a wall to keep out Mexico. It is why that same president also separated and sent people back to their country of origin to suffer from poverty and alienation. It is why even today people are still standing behind the #BlackLivesMatter and #StopAsianHate movements to fight for what we should have had in the first place: true equality amongst everyone.
Death Penalty is Still Legal
This issue is one that is very controversial, with people on both sides of the fence, and some even just straggling it. But did you know that America is the only developed country in which the death penalty is legal? It is the only country in which people, even young children, can be tried as an adult and then subsequently killed by the government. Due to the complications on both sides, I know that the death penalty is here to stay. But the system is still pretty broken.
Personally, I believe that the death penalty should be illegal. I don’t think it’s right that we have the right to kill someone, even if that person has done something heinous and awful. I am certainly not saying that those people should be allowed to roam free in the world. But what I am saying is that there are better, more humane ways to deal with the problem. I think we should focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment. We should not say that certain people are hopeless and won’t amount too much, but instead focus on helping them change their negative behaviors. We should focus on helping people learn how to redirect the negative energy so that one day they can be more positive members of society. I believe that people can change. We just have to give them a chance.
The problem is not the death penalty, but that some people don’t think, get caught in the moment with their emotions, and then do the horrible deed. Some people have the misfortune of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging with the wrong influences, and simply not knowing how to control their emotions.
Obviously, the issue is deeper. In order to have a more humane, civilized, and caring society, I think that we should focus on treating people with mental illnesses, teach people from a young age how to manage their emotions correctly, and eliminate hate. We should reform the educational system so that we are teaching these things to our children. We should also reform the prison system so that we are teaching everyone behind bars how to manage their emotions and deal with negative situations appropriately. I believe that everyone has the capability to change, if they want to. We should teach them the necessary skills and give them the opportunity to change. People do make mistakes but they shouldn’t be punished with the ultimate punishment.
Treatment of Women
Finally, the last thing that annoys me greatly is the negative treatment of women in America. We may be able to vote in this country, something that we weren’t allowed to about a hundred years ago, but women still face discrimination in this country because of the gender that they were born as. Women still get paid less than their male counterparts, even if the woman might be more qualified for the job. Women still have to get permission from their husbands to get certain surgical reproductive procedures done. Women still have to fight to be seen as something more than just cute or emotional. Women still have to face men who treat women condescendingly as if they were mere play things and not to be taken seriously.
If that’s not enough, women still have to face the burden of always being treated differently from men. Women can’t go around topless in public, though a man can. Women can’t go to certain places that men can without judgements and stares. Women are perceived as the weaker sex, even though I can argue that women are definitely stronger in everyway that it counts.
The fact that women are seen almost as second class citizens or objects to be controlled by the ones in power (or the men) shows that America still does not respect women. And I believe until America can finally respect and treat everyone (men, women, non-binary, transgender) as equals can America rise above what it has continued against for decades. Only until these ridiculous stereotypes on what a man or a woman is is eliminated can we rise above all the hate.