When I woke up this morning, my roof was still covering me from the elements of nature, my bed and blankets were still keeping me warm. I enjoyed a nice hot shower and slipped into some newly purchased apparel and went downstairs to get breakfast for my daughter and myself. After getting her safely on the school bus, I commenced with my 35-mile commute to the job I really enjoy that gives me outstanding benefits and adequate pay. I came home to a warm dinner, surrounded by a loving family and most of the material possessions I could possibly need. I have good health, a few bucks in the bank; in short, I have grasped my piece of the American Dream and am living a quality life. I’ve worked hard to get here, but I also know that I’m pretty damn lucky too.

Purely by accident, I was born in the good old U.S. of A. From my first breath, I already held an advantage over two thirds of the planets human population. I did nothing to deserve this; my eventual skills played no part in my good fortune. It just was.

But rather than assume that the advantage of birth is a foregone conclusion, entitling me to all the good things in life just because, I came to realize that success, whether individual or larger scale, is built on the backs of those who came before us. I was lucky to be born in a country that was technologically advanced, democratically governed, and financially affluent. All of these things contribute to my present condition, and they were fought for and won by those who came before me. So despite my own hard work to prop myself up, others paved the way, created an environment for me to excel, and defended the rights of the common man as described in our Constitution.

Yet with so much in my favor, with so much good fortune on my side, why is it that I am so angry at what our country is becoming; at what it has become? This is a question posed often in various ways by conservative commenters and writers who fail to see not only what is changing in America, but also how it is that we got to be so advantaged in the first place.

“What are you whining about?” they say snidely. Or, “Why should I care about that?” in response to some social or foreign policy issue. For someone with limited ability to see beyond one’s own good fortune or pleasant circumstances, the question may seem valid. And try though I might to illuminate my displeasures, the moat of selfishness is often too large to breach. Yet for the sake of trying, I will make another attempt, in statement and response form.

“Why do you always blame everything on Bush?”The president is a categorical liar, beginning with his self-description of “compassionate conservative” to his rationale about Iraq through to his false refutations regarding foreknowledge of the potential damage from Katrina. And these are just the big ones. He has a proven record as a failed businessman, a proven record of unbridled cronyism, and an unhealthy love affair with corporations. He distorts spirituality and cheapens religious beliefs by using them as cynical political ploys. And, he and his administration are responsible for the policies and actions that have gutted decades of environmental and social progression, lowered our reputation among the nations of the world, and squandered our tax revenue and our soldiers in pursuit of folly and a misguided sense of destiny.

“The economy is doing just fine. People who don’t make it are just lazy and expect handouts.”The economy may be okay in my house and in your house, but that could change in a heart attack. Even with my own great medical plan, one major situation and I’m in the hole. But I understand that my own good job is dependent on so many others. With increased outsourcing, there are fewer good paying jobs around. That means less money to spend or circulate, lower tax revenue, fewer public works and support, and on and on. The net effect of other people losing their jobs is felt by us all, and that concerns me, both on a personal level and from an empathetic point of view. Because I don’t just worry about myself. I care about other people too.

“There is no right to health care in the constitution.”There is no right to corporate subsidies either. To paraphrase an original American patriot, give me equity or give me nothing. The Declaration of Independence proclaims the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution declares government to provide for the general welfare of the people. I can’t seem to find the words corporation or lobbyist anywhere in these documents. I can more readily parse “good, affordable health care” from those documents than I can for corporate welfare.Yet aside from the human element, even corporations would benefit from a release of financial obligations for employee health care. It can be done and it should be done.

“Nobody cares about the wiretapping.”Aside from being patently false, the number of people who care is not the relevant issue at hand in the illegal wiretapping scheme carried out by this president. It was, and still remains, an illegal practice as performed at the direction of the president. He is not above the law. No amount of spin can change the facts. Most people don’t care about a hold-up at an obscure 24-hour mini-mart either, but we don’t stop arresting armed robbers. The issue here is not only did the president break the law, but we have men and women dying today fighting to preserve and spread our democratic belief in the rule of law. We’ve had men and women dying for generations to preserve the ideal. It is both a stain on their sacrifice and a spit on their memory to allow any public official, but especially a president, to get away with that kind of arrogance.

“Criticism only emboldens the terrorists. I guess you love al-Qaeda.”And I guess you are a complete idiot. Anyone not thoroughly brainwashed by neo-con, ultra-evangelical ideology can see that it is my deep love of the good fortune I now have that causes me distress over the course this country is on. I see an unsustainable federal spending spree forcing generations to pay for today’s errors, ultimately driving down our country’s economic stability and superiority. I see social programs, designed to uplift those among us who haven’t the money to become educated or get a doctor check-up or eat three squares a day, being systematically cut down or farmed out to religious indoctrinators. I see a hyped up “War on Terror” that expects no civilian sacrifice or participation other than to keep spending those dollars while the tax revenue gets funneled to corporations who don’t even perform the work they were hired for. My criticism is not given blithely. It has been well earned by this administration. And were I not to criticize, were I to remain silent and mute my free speech, only then would I be emboldening the terrorists. For it is that kind of society, one where self-censorship predominates all public discourse, that they embrace and thrive in.

“Why do you hate America?”Why haven’t you been listening? Really listening. Just as no one is perfect, neither is America. Yet in normal times, it is her imperfection that gives her charm and strength. But in times of duress, which is what we entered when planes were used as cruise missles and our government decided to go all squishy while the POTUS had one to many Napoleonic dreams, we can not simply sit back and marvel at our own good fortune. For as government becomes more and more separated from the people, our individual good fortunes will eventually falter. Our collective good times will end if this path is not altered. If you really love America, you wouldn’t sit by and idly accept every lame excuse from the mouths of liars. You wouldn’t profess admiration or fealty to men and women who discard our most important secular documents of all. If you really love America you
’d be right here beside me too.

So as I wrap up another day in my fortunate life, as I get ready to crawl into a warm bed, I realize that for too many in America the good times aren’t real. The struggle is constant. The relief is fading. And I know that if I do not speak, if I do not empathize, I am no better than those who actively fuel their downfall. Out of honor for those who have come before me I will speak for those who fall beside me. Out of respect for the sacrifices of our forbearers, I will fight to preserve the freedom they died to give me. And so long as I have the ability to vote, I will insist that those who speak for me really speak for me.