Americans take for granted luxuries unknown elsewhere

Andrea Wadsworth and Andrea Wadsworth

The hot topic of the week is Obama’s inauguration. He is our first African-American president, and we are all living a bit of history.

Some people were not happy that he was elected, for political reasons, and I can completely understand that. The great thing about this country is, we can voice those opinions without fear of bodily harm.

I think that a lot of us take that for granted – I know I sure do. The recent events in Gaza, though, have forced me to step out of my box of security and blindness to the world around me.

I can’t say I’m necessarily glad about it, because it’s brought up a lot of strange and new feelings I think about often now. Once I started to look at the differences between the average American’s life and that of a citizen in a developing country, for example, there were many things for me – and you – to be thankful for.

I’m an unmarried woman, and I live by myself. I walk to and from school everyday, sometimes alone and sometimes with others, without fear. I can get a higher education, and I’m encouraged to follow my dreams. It’s been like this my entire life.

Although I know there isn’t perfect gender equality in America, I’ve never personally experienced discrimination of any kind. In some other countries, girls are only given a basic education at home, and are expected to marry and keep house.

Marriages are arranged for them, and extensive dating to find out what one wants is not allowed. A woman cannot travel alone, whether it be for fear of sexual abuse, religious laws or threat of being disgraced. They cannot be alone with a male, either; a family member must be present at all times.

Fast food joints have become a common sight in the USA. Restaurants of every kind abound, from several different pizza places in every city to Chinese and middle eastern restaurants, coffee houses and sandwich shops. There are usually several grocery stores in every town, carrying out-of-season fruits, a variety of vegetables and pre-packaged foods.

Sure, we worry about some outbreaks of food-borne illness, like the current salmonella in peanut butter problem, but those are few and far between. As I bite into my Chipotle burrito, I can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt when I think about the eating habits of those in other countries.

There are pictures of Palestinians in Gaza, waiting in huge lines for dwindling supplies of bread. Other people, such as those in Africa, struggle to make infertile lands produce enough food for their family. Others walk miles everyday just to get a bit of relatively clean water.

Cancer and heart disease are a growing problem in America. This is partially a result of our lengthening life span, and the fact that we have found medicines to treat or prevent other major diseases which used to plague us. Although we have not found a cure for AIDS, we do have access to expensive medications that can vastly improve the quality of life for AIDS-positive individuals.

In developing countries, people still die of diseases that have been eradicated here. Because of the high production cost of medication and infrastructure problems, they do not have access to the latest and greatest medicines, often having to settle for outdated medications which bacteria or parasites have become resistant to.

I hope I’m not sounding too preachy in writing about all this. On Tuesday, history was made in this great country of ours. Thinking about all the privileges and luxuries that I have gives me even more pride in this country, and a desire to help keep it this way, to preserve it for many generations to come.

It also gives me a drive to do whatever I can to obtain equality and better living conditions for those in other countries. I only wish I knew how to effectively do that. Whenever I start to complain about not having the latest clothes, or more jewelry, I have to stop and think – thank goodness I live in the United States of America, and have luxury to be able to worry about those things.

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