The Truth About American Values

March 19, 2017

Who are the people who risk their lives for the safety of this country? Who are the people who leave everything they love behind for the sake of American citizens? Who are the people who are there for us when things go wrong? Who do you call when your house is burning down and you have nowhere to turn? Who do you go to when you don’t feel safe? I’ll give you a hint- it’s not the Ghostbusters.

If you were thinking of our soldiers, of our firefighters, or even of our mothers and fathers, you thought right. These are the brave women have some of the most important jobs in both America and the world. These people give their time and sometime even their lives to protect us. Don’t you think that’s incredible? They’re so selfless that they will willingly give up their greatest gift to keep people they’ll never meet safe. How many people do you know that would make that sacrifice?

Our great nation has a problem. We are a melting pot, filled with a hard working population. There are soldiers, like I mentioned earlier. There are farmers, nurses, and businessmen. And there are the rich and famous celebrities who star in our favorite movies. Our society is perceived as perfect. Citizens of other countries think that we are living the American Dream. And they’re right. In some ways, we are.But there is a dark side of America, and it’s not even well hidden. In fact, it’s not hidden at all.

One side of our society is glamorous- the Hollywood starlets and our rich film history. On the other side, there are honest, normal Americans just living their lives. There’s something wrong with this picture, and by now you may have guessed what I’m going to be talking about.

Unfortunately, there is an alarming disparity between the pay rates of stars and the pay rates of private citizens. But it’s not just Hollywood celebrities- we have sports stars too. These people are making astonishing amounts of money. In the case of professional athletes, it’s not only the games or matches that they make money off of by competing in. Every time they sign and endorsement deal, they are agreeing to promote a product as well as the promise of an increased income. For  one 30-second commercial slot, the actor is paid upwards of 500,000 dollars. The majority of the general public would have trouble making that amount in five years.

Take, for example, an accountant. They will earn an average of 50,000 dollars a year. This accountant would have to work for 340 years straight to earn what Tom Hanks made on his latest movie, Bridge of Spies- 17 million dollars. One single movie.

I ask you, how has our nation come to be like this? The answer is simple- we have begun to place more value in entertainment than in our own lives. We place more value in people we’ve never met than the people we interact with every day. I mean, honestly, what kind of people are we? We have started to value the superficial over the real.

Our society is based on communication, compassion, and freedom for our people. But we have grown from that. Our communicative technology has changed not only our nation but the entire world. We can contact people who live hours away in mere seconds. In the past twenty years, we have gone from giant, immovable home computers to portable laptops that weigh less than a pound.

Our capacity for compassion has also shifted. If you were to ring the doorbell of a stranger’s house near the time this country began, it was very likely that you would be welcomed inside like an old friend. If you looked hungry, you’d probably be treated to supper. People were much more trusting back then. If you rang a stranger’s doorbell today, the last thing they would do is invite you in. We have become a private people, where visiting someone’s house is a privilege. There is no guarantee you wouldn’t be shot at, depending on where you went.

But the most important aspect of our country to many Americans is freedom. You cannot think of this country and not think of our civil liberties. The idea of freedom is wonderful, but what we have decided to do with our freedom is not. Celebrities rise in popularity and are free to buy, for the most part, whatever they wish. They buy second, third, and maybe even fourth homes. They can buy the most expensive yachts to host dinner parties on. But even though they can, doesn’t mean they should.

Not only are these spending spurts harmful to the economy, they are harmful to society. I want you to picture a homeless veteran, one of the 49,000 in America. One day, they decide to look in the window of an electronics store. What do they see when they look at that screen? Rich and powerful celebrities, buying homes worth millions of dollars and playing war heroes in blockbuster movies. Now picture how this makes them feel. We are proving to them, over and over, that their value is less than that of a star. Here they are, having actually defended our country, yet the government provides them with almost nothing to thank them for their struggles, instead commending people who have never actually been to war. Men and women who have fought to protect us are now being turned away. Why is this something that happens every day? This behavior is unacceptable.

However, soldiers and policemen aren’t the only ones who deserve more credit. It is astonishing to me that most of our nation’s teachers have salaries averaging 48,000 dollars. Why do we place so little value in the very people who contribute the most to society?

Think about all the things we learn from teachers. From the alphabet to calculus, these are the people who are educating our children, but more importantly, they are educating our future. Why is it that we pay them so little? They are the very core of our nation, the reason we are so successful as a society, the reason we have made the leaps that we have. Not only that, school is the place where we spend the most time besides our homes. We are with these people for hours upon hours, Monday through Friday, August through June. We learn from them, but we don’t only learn the subjects that they teach. We learn life lessons.

In kindergarten, we learn to tie our shoes and how to share. In fifth grade, long division and tough situations. In eighth grade, algebra and dealing with stress. In high school, we learn how to survive breakups and American History. Through all these lessons we have the continual, unending support of our teachers. Without that support, we would have a lot less of the valuable skills we have today. Without that support and knowledge, we would be a collection of uneducated and unmotivated people. The lessons we learn from our teachers are the lessons that will aid us as we continue in life, and without them, we would be starting at a disadvantage.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the people who receive the most credit are not the people who deserve it. We associate bravery with the risk takers, but we don’t reward them for it. Instead, we reward those who remove us from our daily lives just long enough to distract us from our everyday worries. But we can’t just forget our problems. We must find ways to solve them.

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