November 21, 2009

Readers Write: The Promise of America

Dear Hell Gazette,

I didn't want to write this letter, but as I've talked to associates from my former life I've come to the conclusion that I'm not alone.  If my honest confession can help other people to change, I will have done some good.

Let me start at the beginning: I was a capitalist.

It started when I was a kid.  My father owned a small hardware store and I was always taught that he was doing right by employing three people and providing goods and services for people at reasonable prices.  I was told that his energy and effort was creating value for everyone - not just himself - by providing things people wanted at prices they agreed to pay.  If someone didn't like what he offered, or his prices, or him - they could just walk out.  Time and time again, he said that this is the danger with governments - you couldn't just "walk out" if you didn't like what they were offering.  He didn't want his neighbors to pay his bills and he didn't want to be forced to pay for anyone else.  He always told me that this country was started with that belief.  I was young and impressionable and believed all he said.

I put myself through college by working at the cafeteria and taking out loans to pay the rest.  When my friends were out on Fridays and Saturdays while I studied, I told myself that it would pay off eventually.  Little did I know I was falling prey to the poverty of ambition.  Eventually I graduated and landed a decent job.  I worked overtime to pay off all my student loans within two years.

One day, the scales fell from my eyes and for the first time I saw clearly.  I was walking out of Starbucks and saw a homeless man - obviously oppressed - with a sign that said "Gimme money you rich jerck" and I suddenly realized - his plight was actually my fault.  If my father had paid a living wage, perhaps this poor man's mother could have sent him to college, or at least taught him the basics of personal hygiene.  If I hadn't attended private school, perhaps his school would have had the resources to teach him to properly spell "jerk".  If I handed him all the money in my wallet, perhaps he could finally use his fully functional arms and legs for something other than an easel on which to prop up a crude cardboard sign.  I did just that (the wallet part).

Everything changed from that day forward.  I quit my job on Wall Street that day and immediately entered law school.  Once I have my degree I plan to volunteer my time at either the ACLU or Southern Poverty Law Center and help the downtrodden get the life they deserve.  You see, the promise of America is to make sure that no one has to go without the things they need: food, medical care, transportation, and quality entertainment.  Those selfish people who think we deserve only what we earn in this world and that, by taking care of ourselves we are taking care of our neighbors, live in an older, un-enlightened age.  I truly feel sorry for them and wish them the best.

I'll probably be seeing them soon in court.

Ashton McFlurfy (New Haven, Connecticut)

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