I grew up in rural Kansas, with the kind of Norman Rockwell childhood you hear a lot about these days: our two-room school's baseball diamond was carved from a cornfield. My dad, who held Army medals for marksmanship, owned two rifles. I never killed a polar bear, or shot at wolves from a helicopter, but I took care of my share of rats at the garbage dump where we took our trash in those pre-green days. It's been a while since I held a rifle, but I used to be able to clean and fire a .25 pretty well.
Our family was typically American in other ways: we were a Heinz 57 mix of religions and ethnicities. One of my great-grandfathers was a Hasid, an ultra-orthodox Jew in eastern Poland; another studied for the Catholic priesthood before realizing that life wasn't meant for him. Other great-great grandfathers were part of the generation of Puritan preachers who settled New England in the seventeenth century.
In my family, as in so many blended American families, our central holiday was the Fourth of July. On that day, it didn't matter if you spoke to the Divine Presence in Hebrew or Latin or English; it didn't matter if the Divine spoke back to you through tongues or in Isaiah's still small voice, or didn't speak at all. What mattered was that we all came together to celebrate this sweet land of liberty.
On the Fourth of July, my father taught us the history of the country. My mother had my brothers and me memorize sections of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution. We learned:
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do establish and ordain this Constitution for the United States of America.
We the People. Not, we the billionaires. Not, we the believers in Creationism. Not, we the oil industry lobbyists. Just, we the people.
This is why I support Barack Obama for President of the United States. He understands this mandate, and he has lived it during fourteen years of public service.
The Founders of this country could not have imagined our health care system when they wrote that they wished to "promote the general welfare." But they surely did not confuse "the general welfare" with the wealth and health of the few. In America today, we taxpayers give the Republican president and his would-be successor free health care of the highest quality in the world. When Mr. Bush returns to Crawford, and Senator McCain to Sedona, we taxpayers will continue to provide them this gold-plated health care. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain have told us taxpayers to go to the emergency room when we're sick.
Barack Obama, from the day he entered public life, has understood that we all share the blessings of liberty, and that we all share the costs and the benefits of those blessings. As a state legislator in one of America's largest states--with almost twenty times the population of Alaska--he worked with Republicans and Democrats to create affordable health care for Illinois children, so that when they were sick, or born with disabilities, their mothers didn't have to line up in an emergency room. He worked for the welfare of our oldest citizens, who had given a life of service to this country, and did not need to spend their final years in poverty and indignity. As a United States Senator, Barack Obama has continued that important, bi-partisan work.
When the Founders of our country talked about "establishing justice," they wanted justice for all Americans without fear or favor. We've lived in a poisonous atmosphere for the last eight years, where if you paid lip service to religion, you could buy and sell our natural resources while having cocaine and sex parties. You could fire federal prosecutors for not supporting the president. You could threaten to put librarians in prison for the crime of consulting a lawyer when the Department of Justice came calling at their libraries.
This is also why I support Barack Obama for President of the United States. He believes that justice means observing the law impartially for all, not just for the wealthy, not just for people who pay lip service to religious beliefs.
I have spent the last forty years working for women's rights to be treated as full and equal citizens under the law. And this is the final reason that I support Barack Obama.
I have a fourteen-year-old granddaughter, and like all grandmothers, my beloved granddaughter is dearer to me than anything else on this earth. I want her to grow up in a world where she can make the most important decisions about her life in the privacy of her home or doctor's office: her decisions about whether to become pregnant, whether to be a mother. She doesn't need a government telling her what to do.
Governor Palin has demanded privacy for her teen daughter's pregnancy, and for the Palin family's decisions about sex education and contraception, but the governor, and Senator McCain, both want my granddaughter's decisions to be the government's business.
If Barack Obama is elected president, he will keep the government out of our bedrooms. He will return our nation to the serious work the Republicans have abandoned for far too many years: providing for the common defence, promoting the general welfare, securing the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Sara Paretsky is a writer whose most recent books are the essays Writing in an Age of Silence and the novel, Bleeding Kansas.