The Odessa Record -

Guest editorial

 


It’s that time of year again to make a New Year’s resolution. Like the Roman god Janus, we look to our past to see what didn’t work as we hoped and then to the future with a new promise, which we probably will not keep. But we can take comfort in having good intentions.

As a nation, we sometimes make promises that we don’t keep either. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had noted, one such unmet promise has yet to be fulfilled: Equality.

When our Founding Fathers gave us the promissory note that “all men are created equal,” their definition of “men” applied only to rich white men with money and/or land. By the time of Andrew Jackson in the 1830s, “men” included all white men, 21 or older, regardless of their status. After Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the ripple effect liberated all slaves, even those outside the Confederate-held territory. “Men” now included free men. By 1919, women gained the right to vote and became “equal,” and in 1971 the right to vote was extended to 18 year olds, who now became “equal.”

Slowly, and often painfully, America has expanded the promise of equality since 1776, even when the realities of it have fallen short.

As Dr. King also noted, two major hurdles block the way to equality: Racial Injustice and Economic Injustice, which he called the “inseperable twins” of inequality. He firmly believed both problems could be resolved if men and women of courage worked to change both of these societal roadblocks to equality.

Racial injustice is a matter of attitude about others, often learned at home and allowed by society. The longer we take to overcome this injustice, the more the delay will degrade us. Economic inequality, on the other hand, could be solved within five years if Americans fulfilled the promissory note with a guaranteed income for all Americans and, given the current political debate, with universal healthcare for all.

As the richest nation the world has ever seen, America has the power to effect such changes. Moral courage and political will are required not only of ordinary citizens, but also of our politicians, the elite and businessmen and women to bring about the changes.

Americans pride themselves on being #1. And we are #1, but not in economic equality, where we rank 135 of 141 nations or in racial equality where we rank dead last.

We are #1 in such areas as the number of people in prison, obesity, the most expensive country to have a baby, gun ownership (but only #2 in murder rate), making money, lack of quality of health as a nation, killing innocent women and children with drones, short jeans.

America is #1 in so many of the wrong qualities, and we are usually way down the list – if not dead last – in principles, like Freedom, Equality, Liberty, Justice, to name a few. We give these principles lip service, but continue to feed our materialistic souls to our peril.

Perhaps January 2017 is the time to tackle head on the total abolition of one major social problem – Poverty. If we call ourselves “civilized” and “#1 in the world,” we should not tolerate keeping people in poverty.

Our religion, like our political and social systems, is only as good as we treat our neighbors. Since our religion says (as did our Founding Fathers) that all are one, then the only things holding us back are our moral cowardice and political fear to help each other.

Perhaps it is time to become #1 in a principle that truly matters – Equality.

Let’s gird our loins and get rid of the scourge of poverty in this country. Once and for all.

Duane Pitts

Moses Lake

Duane Pitts is a retired high school English teacher who taught in Odessa for many years. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, he writes about social issues of today.

 

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