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Kelly Cheek
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Then you really might know what it's like

Since a large part of my journey involves moving to another country, I often think about what drove me to want to do that.

There’s a lot to love about America. It’s one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Within its borders, you’ll find some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere, ranging from craggy mountains to tropical jungles, deserts to rain forests, expansive swamplands to abundant fertile plains. The United States has nearly a hundred thousand miles of oceanic coastline and over two billion acres of land.

There is, admittedly, a lot of darkness in our country’s history, which a growing number of people want to hide. Unfortunately, hiding something is not the same as making it go away. It’s still there, underlying everything. Our history is what led us to where we are today, good and bad.

That doesn’t mean we have to be proud of that history, or continue to make those same mistakes. But too many would rather try to hide the bad episodes of our history than learn from them.

I have admitted a number of times that certain events in our history, and a growing number of current events, have made me feel ashamed to be an American. I won’t go into all of them now, as I don’t want this post to become an America-bashing rant. Suffice to say America can be a bully.

However, a country is not just its government and its foreign and domestic policies. Zoom in and take a look at the people that make up the tapestry of America. There are a lot of good and caring people within our borders. One proof of that is the fact that Americans donated over $471 billion to charities in 2020.

The dark side of that is the fact that so many charities are actually needed. America is a wealthy nation. Approximately 22,000,000 – yes, twenty-two million – Americans are millionaires, and 724 are billionaires! Yet according to the US Census Bureau, over 37,000,000 Americans live in poverty, and it’s estimated that over half a million are homeless.

Now, I’m not going to imply that every one of those millionaires and billionaires are selfish, greedy bastards. Some may be generous with their abundance, donating to some of those previously-mentioned charities. But how can so many millionaires and billionaires live with themselves when so many have so little?

Then there are those on the other end of the spectrum – or maybe it’s a completely different spectrum altogether. America sure seemed to get more than its fair share of fools and idiots! Everything nowadays is about freedom and rights, and not about common sense, as evidenced by the fact that, in the last couple of years, the United States so frequently showed up on other countries’ “no admittance” lists.

Rather than get the freely-available and effective vaccine against COVID-19, people have touted almost anything but what has been supplied by the scientific and medical experts. Everything from ingesting bleach and disinfectants to horse de-worming medicine, breathing the hot air from a blow-dryer, taking Viagra, drinking urine.

Yeah, I’m afraid you read that right.

Some Americans get so up in arms about their rights being violated, but they don’t give a damn if having their rights violates someone else’s. A major case in point is the love affair that Americans have with guns. According to one study, 11.1 of every 100,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2019, more than triple the global rate of 3.0. In 2021, nearly twenty-one thousand Americans were murdered with guns.

But if you mention anything that even sounds like you lean toward favoring stricter gun laws, you better be prepared for an angry argument. Your right to not be killed by someone with a gun is not as important as their right to own a gun – or a stockpile of guns.

This is something that a lot of other countries just don’t understand, and that has frequently contributed to my embarrassment for my country. When mass shootings make the news, and Americans flail about, not knowing what to do about it, other countries look at us the way we might look at someone who can’t figure out how to use a tissue. They’ve brought gun violence down dramatically, using some of the most obvious methods, while we sit here, snot running down our face, blubbering about our rights.

I recently saw a photo of a chalkboard sign outside a bar in another country – Europe, Canada, I’m not sure. But it said, “All Americans must be accompanied by an adult.” Funny, but apropos. And you wonder why I’m sometimes embarrassed to be an American?

There are other things, too, that will more directly affect most of us, which I’ve mentioned before, first and foremost being healthcare. America is the only developed country in the world that still does not have some form of universal healthcare. Unlike gun ownership, good health is not a right, but a privilege that we are expected to pay through the nose for. If you can’t afford it, you don’t get it, or you go bankrupt in order to get it.

When some business type sitting at a desk in an insurance company has the power to deny payment for a medical treatment or procedure that a trained doctor has deemed necessary, you know there’s something wrong with this system.

I didn’t want this to be an America-bashing post but unfortunately, while there’s a lot to love about the country, there’s also a lot that should be improved. And it appears that there’s not a lot of motivation among the legislators to improve it.

I’m reminded of a patriotic bumper sticker I used to see a lot that said, “America – Love it or leave it.” I’m afraid that’s not so easy to do anymore, with so many other countries restricting Americans from entering.

I just hope that, if I don’t get killed by anti-vaxxer ignorance or gun violence or a medical condition that I can’t afford to pay for, I don’t die of embarrassment.