Burning Hope: a Right or a Privilege?

February 5, 2011
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A house burned down not far from here and the firefighters came, but instead of taking out their hoses to stop the overwhelming flames, they watched the blaze as it engulfed the house.

Ray Bradbury must have been picturing a scene like this in Fahrenheit 451. But this isn’t fiction, it’s real and this is America. A house with life, with three household animals, burned to the ground, and nothing was done? Impossible, was my reaction. I thought that living in the land of the free meant that it came with some privileges or some rights that would make me safe. The house burned to the ground as the family wept over the loss of their priceless treasures. Is this honestly what we believe in?

The house had burned because the owners had not paid their regular fee for such emergency services. Having forgotten the fee, they were forgotten by the firefighters. Even though the owners had offered any sum of money in exchange for the service of dousing the blaze, the firefighters refused. They stood there and watched. The family learned that day that the country does not allow room for mistakes.

Growing up, whenever I heard the loud sirens outside, I would always sigh a sigh of relief, because I knew, without knowing it, that another life or another family was saved. That was one of the best things about being an American, I thought. The idea that 911 is always there for you, no matter what, they’re there to save lives. Isn’t that what it all comes down to? Keeping humanity alive? As special as 911 is and as exclusive as it is, it is also a meaning of hope as well as optimism. The powerful words, “Thank you, you saved my life” are words that can’t be transformed into dollars or euros or yens. The emergency services are icons of hope in times of great desperation. Even as a young girl, reading picture books and looking outside the window, the ambulance and its colorful siren was a sign of help. The siren was a song singing, “Don’t worry, I’m here to help.” That very siren that never dies has always been a distinct part of our lives whether we realize it or not. We live our daily lives knowing that help is only a phone call away. In turn we not only live more hopeful lives, but optimistic and productive. After all, we are optimistic in the sight of danger or threats. We are also far more confident about our country because we know that we have services that assure our citizens’ safety.

However, as much as 911 binds us together and gives us hope, one word can make that all go away. Money. The fuel for the avarice in our world. It is exactly what mutes the siren, what blinds the lights, and what stops the hope. Should we be making that decision? The fact that money is a priority over life and saving a burning home is astounding and comes to me as quite depressing.

Understandably, due to the current state of the economy more politicians are pushing for this option of turning people into customers. Breathing on the people of the United States to pay separately for the insurance of their safety and their lives. Maybe it’s the most logical option for us to surrender to this idea, but a philosopher once said that our decisions are not results of our reason, but of our emotions. Have you ever given money to charity out of reason? Frankly, isn’t it unreasonable to give money away? So, maybe we ought to look into our emotions and really figure out what is our priority and what we are willing to lose. Because, that little girl who is looking through the window for the red truck to appear is slowly moving away from the window.

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