Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

October 3, 2012
By , Decatur, GA
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” - Abraham Lincoln

I have always appreciated being born in the United States. Being an American citizen has allowed me many opportunities, such as public education and freedom from religion. We are the country of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. For all? It is hard to follow the mantra from the good ‘ol Declaration of Independence when millions of Americans do not have the opportunities that have been “God given”. I can’t emphasize enough that I love this country, but major improvements need to be made in the form of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in order for me to feel comfortable enough to allow my hypothetical, future family to live here.

The United States views itself as a place where life is revered, and yet we still uphold and use the death penalty. How can we consider ourselves a country with upstanding moral fiber when every year we murder dozens of our own citizens? Dr. Jeffrey Johnson once said, “Capital punishment in the United States is administered in an economically discriminatory way. The wealth disparity between those murderers who live and those who die constitutes a serious constitutional challenge to the permissibility of the death penalty.” I could not sum this up any better. It is the sad truth that felons who are not able to afford quality attorneys are not given the same opportunities as a felon who is able to pay. The economic gap can’t easily be closed, so the simple solution would be to abolish the death penalty, once and for all. Almost every country in the world has abolished capital punishment, and indeed it is a requirement to be a member of the European Union. We need to abolish the death penalty in order to retain our position of being a world power that supports life. Score: United States, -1.

Racial divides are apparent worldwide, but here in America we have an impressive track record of being discriminatory to racial minorities. Jews, African-Americans, Arabs, the list goes on and on. It may appear that racial prejudice towards black people has disappeared since the election of President Obama in 2008, but his election only fired up the anger and disgust of many. However, I am not blind; racial inequality is present and probably always be, but efforts can and need to be made to make our country as equitable as possible for all people. As an Armenian-American whose family was murdered during the Armenian genocide, I know that racial prejudice runs deep and can damage lives for generations. Americans need to learn to be more tolerant of others who are different than themselves. Being known as the “cultural melting pot” is not an easy title, and we need to take it more seriously. Liberty can be a beautiful thing when it is followed through. Score: United States, -2.

One of the most present issues in our country at the moment is over the legalization of gay marriage, and it has made clear line divisions between political parties. As a lesbian, I can’t imagine living in a country where I am not allowed to be married to the person I love, just because they have XY chromosomes. Countries like Canada and Belgium are on the forefront of this social issue, and I can truthfully say that if by the time I am of age to get married and have the opportunity to move to a country that has legalized same-sex marriage, I would leave the United States in a heartbeat. After talking to many of my LGBT friends, they feel the same way. Feeling like a second class citizen is wearing on the mind. How can Americans live out the pursuit of happiness when they aren’t happy? Limiting the choice to be committed to the person that you care about limits freedoms to pursue and share happiness. That does not sound like the United States that I know and love. Score: United Sates, -3.

There are many more instances of violations of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our country that are more detrimental on a country-wide scale, but the ones mentioned are the most prevalent in my life. We all must admit though that there are just as many good aspects about American politics and society that I have grown to love and appreciate. I hope will all of the fiber of my being that the issues that I do not agree with in my country will one day change in my lifetime, but if they do not, I am grateful to have options. I refuse to live in a nation where the rights of my friends, family, and peers are not treated with both equity and equality, liberty and justice for all.





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