No Life, No Liberty, and the Pursuit of Unhappiness

[This post was originally posted in The Dragon and The Eagle on 29 April 2007]

If we are to talk about human rights, then Americans, theoretically, are perhaps the luckiest nation in the world. Those who study the history of the United States will find that the above statement has a strong base to argue. Whilst stating that “all Men are created equal”, The Declaration of Independence also stress that every person shall be entitled unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. These two creeds make the Americans arguably be ‘the best example’ in modern history in the implementation of human rights and democracy. Nevertheless, Americans today are getting farther and farther from the so-called ‘equality’ and rights to decide the best for themselves.

Are Americans today entitled wholly their rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? What Cho Seung-hui did two weeks ago proved that life in America is simply dangerous. A very tragic incident it was, yet it was nothing but another display of ‘American rigidity’. Once again, Americans were in mourning: they were very angry, depressed, and confused – but nothing fundamental has changed. The Second Amendment, a legacy of American Revolution, still stands to clearly say that no limitations shall be imposed upon Americans’ right to have a gun. If Americans feel safer in their life by having a gun, let them do that. So far, every effort to amend this Amendment fails to gain much support from Congress. The Republicans, at least presidential candidate Senator John McCain, were among those who support this Amendment. Dubya even sees no importance in debating the Amendment.

Americans are free to do (almost) anything to make the best of their life. But in Virginia Tech case as were in similar previous cases, it seems that you couldn’t live in peace, you couldn’t make use of your liberty, and you wouldn’t feel happy, unless you could defend yourself with a gun. Let me ask you Americans, what kind of society is this? What does being ‘a society of freedom’ mean if you have to be ready anytime to protect that liberty with weapons?

Interestingly, American politicians are not only ‘rigid’, but they are also controversial – as they always be. TEMPO magazine in its 22 April edition writes that another ‘terrorist’ has attacked many states in the U.S.: obesity. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 25% of population of 17 states in 2005 had obesity problems. CDC also finds out that until 2006, obesity has killed at least 400.000 Americans annually. It has exceeded smoking as No. 1 killer in the U.S. So shocking and frightening this fact to Americans, Indiana and Iowa implemented quite successfully some programs to make their citizen slimmer. California, New York, and Washington have been discussing bills which will impose tax on junk food and soft drink, so that people will reduce their consumption on those unhealthy foods. However, other states like Hawaii, Massachusetts, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado and New Jersey have not arranged similar ‘dietary’ programs yet, due to limited support in their respective Houses.

Americans view possessing a gun and consuming unhealthy foods as a matter of personal choice. As they are entitled the rights of ‘life’ and ‘liberty’, they are allowed to do almost everything they feel necessary to make them ‘happy’. There seems nothing wrong with this until we put those choices into a wider, bigger society safety and welfare – and we find controversial arguments. Argument one: using a gun unexpectedly may cause fewer victims than consuming unhealthy foods. Argument two: making one’s life healthy is valued more than keeping one safe. Argument three: regulations are not necessary for personal choice; otherwise they are breaking the very basic of American rights.

Poor Americans, life is not getting easier for them. Two cases above have showed that for a significant part of Americans, what they have are simply ‘no life’, ‘no liberty’, and ‘the pursuit of unhappiness’. For most U.S. politicians, let me say this: ‘unlimited freedom will kill you’.

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