Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

December 31, 2012
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Thomas Jefferson, American statesman, philosopher, and author of that document which is held most dear in the hearts of Americans, the Declaration of Independence, once dipped his goose-feather quill into a pot of inky blackness and transcribed the ideals of a nation onto crispy white parchment in elegant lettering. The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most important document in American history, but what made this document special was not its bold assertion of independence from Britain, nor was it the symbolic importance of its nature. What made Jefferson’s magnum opus truly legendary were five simple words which changed forever the fate of a nation. Five words, still wet with the ink of revolution, became the keystone that held up the arch of American society; for it is known that every American holds firm in his belief that “all men are created equal”. However, there exists in the United States a piece of legislation which blatantly contradicts the sacred principle of equality Americans have claimed to espouse since the conception their nation. In March of 1961, President Kennedy passed Executive Order 10925. Officially used to refer to measures to achieve non discrimination throughout America, it was expanded by President Lyndon B. Johnson in Executive Order 11246 to require federal contractors to hire without regard to race, religion, nationality, creed, and in 1968, gender was also added to the list. While the goal of the program is to ensure equality, the opposite effects, inequality and distrust, often gain a foothold and society becomes a tangle of gnarled and twisted roots that are difficult to eradicate. Affirmative Action mandates universities and employers to favor minority races during selection. This is based on the naive assumption which holds that individuals of certain ethnic backgrounds are “disadvantaged” either culturally or economically, and should therefore be favored over their sometimes equally qualified “white” applicants. Affirmative action programs should not be based on race but rather on economic status. For not is it only culturally ignorant to assume the socio-economic status of an individual based on skin tone or their native language, but also indifferent to the looming shadow of poverty, which, unlike humans, does not discriminate and dispenses with the trivial matters of race, gender, sexual orientation, and nationality. Like the leaves on trees that wither and die in the fall, these factors do play their part, but are ultimately discarded when presented with the more potent threat of winter’s encroachment.

Poverty is a goddess spurned by all and loved by none. Although ostracized, she boasts more followers and converts than her sister, Wealth. Hers is a church whose priests are compelled to spread their religion throughout the globe. The priests of Poverty are scavengers, indiscriminate in the type of meat consumed. They are violent missionaries, akin to wolves who stalk their prey from a distance before closing in for the kill, preferring the stragglers who have strayed from the prosperous herd of Wealth, rather than the strong figureheads who lead the herd. However, the priests are also opportunistic. When a situation does arise in that a strong member of the herd finds itself alone and isolated from its companions, the priests will strike swiftly and without warning leaving the once-proud leader reduced to nothing but an empty carcass with all indicators of its previous life removed. It has left the herd of Wealth and has become an unwilling member of the church of poverty. For those afflicted with the blessing of Poverty, a return to the herd of Wealth seems far off and distant. But for some, salvation lies just within reach as Poverty’s distant cousin, Opportunity extends a helping hand to those who wish to rejoin the fat herds that graze on rich grass in the meadows of Wealth. Through affirmative action, Opportunity bestows her blessings on a select few, though not all are privileged enough to receive a god’s favor. Affirmative action ignores the cries of the truly needy and instead bestows its blessing based on skin color and minority status.

Why is it so, that in this world of ours, the thundercloud of injustice perpetually overpowers and blots out the bright and elegant rays of equality? It is ironic indeed that the malevolent Poverty mandates isonomy as a key component of her dogma, and when juxtaposed to the god of Opportunity, Poverty appears to be the venerable paragon of egalitarianism. How is it so that he, who is so revered for his charity, is considered at all benevolent while he deigns to employ the putrid diseases of prejudice and discrimination when considering a candidate’s worthiness in receiving the veritable bounty of his great gift?
The United States is a nation which prides itself as being “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. But these words are hollow, false boasts, and untruths. How can a nation truly be free when its people are imprisoned with the shackles of discrimination and the iron bars of prejudice? How can a nation be brave when it refuses to clamber out of the trenches of the past and charge across the no-man’s land into the machine gun fire and barbed wire entanglements of inequality? Indeed, opportunity is a rare gift in contemporary times and should be awarded only to those who are in need of it most. For poverty is able to transcend boundaries set by the abstract concepts of skin color and religion, while opportunity is often withheld from the poor. Through its endorsement of affirmative action, the United States demonstrates that it is afraid to stand up for its core principles, for its core beliefs, and for its people. Until affirmative action is awarded based solely on economic status, regardless of race, gender, religion, or creed, and the benevolence of Opportunity is able to build a one-way bridge from Poverty’s gloomy sepulcher to Wealth’s green and pleasant fields, Poverty’s unwilling converts will ever be barred access to the green pastures of Wealth and America will never truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave that it boasts to be.

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