Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008!

A historical moment has been upon us for this past year and even longer before that, before I even knew who McCain or Obama was.

And finally, it is here. Election Day!!

So. Let's look at some of the important issues and interesting considerations the next president of America will take on his plate:

140,000 American troops are in Iraq.

10- More than 10% (to be exact, 15%) of Americans are uninsured medically
90 guns per 100 people in the U.S- the most armed country in the world (Reuters news)
8.5 million barrels of oil produced per day in U.S (we use 20.7 million a day)
70% of 8th graders can't read at grade level
6 wars going on around the world currently (Yes, I'm surprised it's "only" six too)
550,000-650,000 illegal immigrants in New York alone, not counting other states
485,000,000,000 federal budget deficit
3 million pregnancies a year are unintended- out of those, 1.3 million pregnancies are ended
2 states out of 50 that allow same-sex marriage (California & Massachusetts)
1 nation (as divided as it may feel right now between the two parties, we ARE one nation)

I have to admit that I am glad to live in the U.S, even despite the fact America has become increasingly unpopular over the last few years, despite the fact I have been sickened to hear the wild rumors slung from both sides of the fence that cost both candidates some validity in my mind, despite the fact we have a lot of problems right now, and despite the fact that I am very much an "independent" or "liberal" which leads me to feel that the party system doesn't work very well.

But it is precisely because of the overused concept of "freedom" that I am able to have an opinion- to uphold my main mindset of true equality and freedom- that we, as people (not just as Americans), should be allowed to live our lives in the fullest way possible. I believe the government should not interfere much with people's lives, but rather that "the people" should take it upon themselves to see why they should care and get involved with their community. Idealistic, I know.

In other countries, I might be told to keep my yap to myself. Here, I am allowed to actually try to make a difference. I don't know as much about other countries as I'd like, but thanks to the program at school I am in, I have heard first-hand accounts from people I am glad to call friends - an opinionated outgoing white woman who came from South Africa, a bold and funny Aussie, and a sweet intelligent girl whose parents immigrated from Iran.

The others in my program, though they may "just" be Americans, still continue to offer new perspectives to me in addition to the ones who can offer a look beyond America's borders.

And what a look it is. I have been forced to explore issues that most people would rather ignore but I have learned so much about the differences of people, yet I have seen how very similar people are, as cliche as that sounds.

I am proud that this is the first presidential election I am able to vote in and that so many of my other peers are taking it upon themselves to learn about what candidates support what issues and to get out there and actually get involved.

Okay, you may not like any of the candidates but you can't deny that today is a historic day and that maybe, just maybe, the next four years will be good for America.

It's interesting because I have always hated the word "disability"- I still do. I don't think it's a good word to use because it has negative connotations at times. Yet, in the past few years, disability rights and issues have gotten more focus than usual. This is great! My youngest brother is Autistic. I capitalize this word because it seems like it should be. He is a magnificent singer, an adorable boy, a good reader, and many years ago, it would have been common advice to put him into an institute. It would have been common advice to put me into one too, because of my deafness.

How far we all have come, as a nation that promotes equality and access.

So, when I thought of the issues that hit closest to home for me, I immediately thought "disability rights." Where do the candidates stand on bilateral implants, which some of the amazing bloggers, like Jennifer and David, struggled for so long to get approved for? Where do they stand on captioning more things? What about education for "special-needs"? Unfortunately, they aren't asked those very specific questions. But we can look at where they stand on health care, social security, or education, and gather a probable idea of how it will affect closely-tied things.

I want the future generation, some of whom may end up with autistic brothers too, or deaf, or blind, or with ADHD, to not have to struggle as hard as some of us have needed to. I was fortunate to have the state pay completely for my implant surgery, which was approved within weeks. Others wait months and even years (Jennifer and Amanda Conde)

I believe though, that change in those areas will mainly happen thanks to the perseverance of "local" people, not the big shots up in D.C. We will see better laws being made to protect, to bring access, to fund better, and whatever else is sorely lacking right now. It may not happen as soon as we hope. My mother had to continually advocate for me for years, to get interpreters and to mainstream me before it was common to do so.

Today, I will say that yes, I have a "disability". But I live in a country that allows so much free speech that we can push for laws and new policies, for ourselves, each other, and people who haven't even come yet.

As flawed as America is, I still have hope.

So, go out there and vote!!!!

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