I envision an America that champions clean water for all. I see, in my mind, legislation passing that prohibits any dangerous substances from being near precious water supplies. Man, and beast alike have free access to clean, potable water as a right, not a privilege. Humans, with their dominion over the land, strive to make the environment healthy, and strive to make the habitats of their fellow beings safe, clean, and, above all, habitable. Plans to repair dying infrastructure that poisons the water our children drink would be put into place, and the rivers and oceans and seas would be purged of our toxic garbage. Littering the habitats of other creatures, introducing dangerous materials to their homes, would be a much bigger crime.
I envision an America that isn’t hell-bent on destroying everything but the almighty dollar. Shoes upon the feet of every child, no matter which neighborhood they grew up in, no segregation of education, a free meal with fresh vegetables guaranteed. Look at the world, then look at us. If they can do it, why can’t we?
I envision an America where stomping baby animals to death for pornographic videos isn’t defended as “free speech”. I dream of an America where YouTube videos of animals being tortured or hurt don’t get thousands upon thousands of views. I see kill shelters shut down, and every unwanted pet getting a loving family, because the America I envision places emphasis on adopting animals in need rather than supporting an industry of backyard breeders and puppy mills.
An animal is not a fashion statement. An animal is not a status symbol. An animal is meant to love, and to be loved.
These are my dreams, my hopes, my wishes for my home country, but really all I see are nightmares.
I can never remove the image of an animal being skinned alive for its fur from my mind. I see it, bloody and broken and blinking, conscious and aware, suffering needlessly. I think about whoever wound up purchasing that pelt, wearing its coat on their own body, and I wonder if this selfish individual ever stopped to think that some things are more important, more valuable, more precious than an ill-begotten clothing trend.
I can’t stop shaking whenever I read about new pipelines over sacred grounds, whole cultures dismissed with the simple pass of ink on paper. I imagine the oil spilling onto the soil and reaching, oozing its way to groundwater. Yet again, clean water is ruined in an age in which we constantly fear running out of clean water.
Try as you may, you cannot drink a dollar bill.
It’s hard to be a sensitive person living in this country anymore. America, my beloved, has rapidly become America, my painful heart. I look, as I’m supposed to, as we all should, for the people who try. I look for the people who help. When there’s a natural disaster, we pull together. Donations of food, money, clothing, medicine, and clean water are sent from all corners of the country to whatever ravaged area. Volunteers sift through the rubble to look for lost pets and children. Medical staff comes on-site for triage and immediate care, and doctors and nurses at the nearest hospitals pull double shifts.
My most shameful and pain-filled question for this land that I love and those who live here alongside me is, “Why does there need to be a disaster?”
Why does there need to be a disaster for there to be helpers? Why do whole towns have to be swallowed by earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes in order for us to care about each other? There are isolated communities across rural America desperate for easier access to food and medical care and depressed regions of our greatest and largest cities where the water is poison and children and animals alike go hungry. Where are their helpers?
How bad does it really have to get before our hearts are as open as our wallets when we purchase a new iPad or television set?
I’m an optimist by nature, if you can imagine it. I seek out the very best in the very worst of all of us. I channel my humanism and belief in the autonomy of all sentient life and feel so close to my fellow man and to nature that I gain strength I never knew that I had. I spread my smiles and what I have to give at shelters for animals and people in the hopes that they are touched by some bit of kindness in a world that is so very cruel. At the rabbit shelter, I gain the trust of frightened critters and help to socialize them, help them to feel loved and trustful of human beings that have previously failed them. I volunteer to provide basic care. I participate in rallies and demonstrations for the rights and fair treatment of all. I do my best to live by my virtues and beliefs, to stand by them steadfastly, and, in doing so, my spirit soars, and I feel whole.
I envision an America where the weakest of us are sheltered by the strongest of us. I envision an America in which poor little bunnies have never learned to fear human beings. I long for an America where there are no elderly homeless, or any homeless at all, where the dignities of cleanliness and being fed are not considered to be for a select few rather than all.
I envision an America of peace and bravery, kindness and selflessness, conscious effort and conscious living.
My people, my countrymen, it all begins with a kind heart. It all begins with loving one another and wishing well your fellow creatures. If they can do it, why not us?
By SHENITA ETWAROO
FOLLOW SHENITA ETWAROO : twitter.com/shenitaetwaroo