The Bush administration's failed policies created epic problems, which the next president urgently must address. In this video, Pink and some British artists sing about the downtrodden state of the Union, thanks to the Bush administration's relentless devotion to self-interests and careless disregard of the middle class and the poor. (Regular readers may notice this is the second time I've posted this video).
I know what you're thinking. Not another political post! But read this essay, please. It's written from my heart, for my daughter, for our country.
This is a subject about which I am passionate; it would be wrong to remain silent. Because this election is critical, CRITICAL, to what happens next for our country: the paths we walk, the alliances we forge, the different roads on which our ideologies converge. Never in my lifetime has it been more important to speak out for change.
I've worked hard all my life. For nearly 15 years, I was a single mom, sometimes struggling to make ends meet. I had little hope of owning a home or having enough money left after paying my bills to seriously save for the future. Thankfully, my daughter received the very best education. But private high schools and university would have been out of reach, if not for scholarships and later, my husband's employer paying a third of her tuition. My daughter would have had to take out student loans and spend the first third of her career weighed down by heavy debt, struggling to repay the funds.
The land of the free and home of the brave is hemorrhaging compassion, if many of us not only can't afford college tuition, but are just two paychecks away from being out on the street. God forbid if a catastrophic illness interrupts our salary-earning ability. Something is wrong with our country when paying the mortgage or the rent might mean juggling Peter to pay Paul; going without a doctor's checkup or replacing balding tires because the budget's depleted.
So many people are trying to survive on minimum wage, while too many others are losing their jobs, as factories and plants are mothballed or closed. Something is wrong when our production jobs are shipped overseas, resulting not only in higher unemployment levels at home, but inferior quality products shipped back and sold in the US.
We are all dancing too close to the precipice these days. Losing everything we've worked for our whole lives is a real threat. And that's not right.
My grandparents grew up during the Depression and had to overcome many obstacles to eventually be successful. They never forgot what it was to worry about money. Even when they had plenty, the hard lessons learned from the Depression colored how they handled money the rest of their lives.
Our system of checks and balances is broken. Our infrastructure is crumbling, with bridges,roads,tunnels and airport runways falling into dangerous disrepair. Something is wrong with our country when the rich are favored and the rest of us struggle endlessly. Something is wrong when those who can't afford health insurance are turned away from emergency rooms and sent to another hospital, perhaps worsening or even dying for lack of urgent treatment, within that span of a few miles and a few minutes.
Something is wrong with our country when a great city like New Orleans is swamped with a hurricane, while George Bush and John McCain laugh it up over birthday cake. Something is wrong with America when it takes FEMA several days to provide the most basic services, then is unable to coordinate federal and state efforts to get the city up and running again. Something is wrong when New Orleans citizens are forced to find shelter in other states, because government efforts to assist them failed.
Something is wrong when our children lack basic educational skills to compete with the rest of the world. Speaking only English is not something to brag about; even the poorest kids in refugee camp schools often are learning two or three languages. Superior science and math skills are helping the Chinese and the Indians surpass us in the global marketplace. Too many children are being left behind in the United States of America, our country rich in natural resources, but impoverished in management.
Something is criminal about our soldiers being sent to war under false pretenses. And sent and sent and sent, long after the president's lies were exposed. Meanwhile, the real war on terror's firestorm blazes out of control in Afghanistan. Something is deeply wrong when we're not allowed to witness and photograph our soldiers' coffins returning, their bodies buried and publicly mourn their loss.
Something is cataclysmic as our civil liberties are eroded, undermining our Constitution. It is outrageous that our personal phone calls and private emails are monitored by the National Security Agency, with the collusion of corporate behemoths including AT&T and Verizon.
Something is desperately wrong when our personal cameras, MP3 players, laptops, cellphones and other electronic equipment can be seized at our nation's borders, without due cause - violating the Fourth Amendment.
Something is wrong when right-wing religious zealots try to blur the Constitutional distinction between Church and State and dictate our immigration and marriage policies.
Something is wrong when a self-righteous television channel and talk-radio shows spew divisive talking points masquerading as "news." These pundits recklessly incite and inflame hate, all in the quest for Nielsen ratings.
Something is wrong when the average American knows the latest twists and turns of celebrity entertainment, but doesn't care enough to get involved in government, even as stock markets tumble and everything around us seems on shaky ground.
Something is wrong when billions of dollars are spent on political campaign advertisements, while 24 million Americans still go to bed hungry and millions more sleep on the streets or in their cars.
Something is wrong when a Republican presidential candidate in questionable health chooses an unqualified, uninformed person as his running mate. Such reckless behavior puts the whole country at risk.
Something is wrong when presidential candidates deliberately mislead the public with outright lies and/or misleading information. Something is wrong when the public has to search for the truth, because politicians and sometimes even the mainstream media fail to deliver the facts.
Something is wrong when our country runs a rogue prison at Guantanamo Bay. Suspects have been locked up for years without trial, in which none of the usual laws, international treaties and human rights seem to apply.
So many things are wrong with our great democracy. We have to solve these problems. We can't afford four more years of failed policies and finger-on-the-trigger foreign intervention.
After Sept. 11, 2001, America enjoyed the great goodwill of the entire world. After eight years of the Bush-Cheney administration, our friends' attitudes have shifted, first from solidarity and sympathy, then to dismay and anger at the stupidity of putting Bush-Cheney in office for a second term. Most recently our foreign friends and allies have viewed us with a mixture of disgust and pity. Our leadership and international authority have been severely diminished. We have lost our powerful influence on the world stage.
We have lost our way.
And finding our way back isn't enough. We have problems that didn't exist four years or even four months ago. We have no choice but to change direction for our country. And I believe with my whole heart that the only way we can do that is with Sen. Barack Obama as president and Sen. Joe Biden as vice-president. They have the vision, wisdom, strength and steadiness to lead us through the tough challenges ahead.
Ask yourself what you want for your children and your grandchildren. They're already facing unimaginable challenges, with two long wars, huge budget deficits, scatter-shot schools and uneven educational programs, as well as cleaning up our poisoned environment and stem potentially-catastrophic consequences of climate change. Do we want our children's entire lives to be spent cleaning up our messes? Or do we want something better for them? A future where they have hope for brighter tomorrows, including better education, higher-paying jobs, cleaner air, healthier food and cures for baffling diseases?
I urge you to exercise your freedom and responsibility as Americans and go to the polls and vote. Have a little faith in the goodness and optimism at the heart of the American spirit. Vote for change. Do it for your children and grandchildren. Do it for your own peace of mind. Do it for us; for our country. Yes, we can! Never have we needed each other more.
Barack Obama for president.
Photo of Barack and Michelle Obama with former President Bill Clinton, courtesy of Obama for America.