Giving thanks on the 4th

With all the rancor surrounding both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, we’ve got it good in the United States. Really good. Really.

We’re allowed to argue and protest in this country, as long as we don’t get violent. And most of us take our living conditions for granted.

Haiti

Haiti Deaf Women Slain
Venita, who is deaf, serves rice for breakfast to Wilmine, right, Jessica, center, and Bradley, three children of her friend Jesula Gelin in Leveque, a community where a group of deaf people relocated after the 2010 earthquake in Cabaret, Haiti. (The Associated Press)

We could live in Haiti. That country is less than two hours away from Miami, Fla., by airplane. (It’s a lot farther away by boat, which is why refugees from that part of the world seeking asylum in this country sometimes don’t make it.)

A friend told us he visited Haiti several years ago, and saw extreme poverty there. He learned that government corruption is the major cause. He said a huge chunk of taxes raised is wasted, leaving most Haitians destitute.

The World Bank offers this summary:

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world. Its per capita income — $ 250 — is considerably less than one-tenth the Latin American average. About 80 percent of the rural Haitian population lives in poverty. Moreover, far from improving, the poverty situation in Haiti has been deteriorating over the past decade …

The staggering level of poverty in Haiti is associated with a profile of social indicators that is also shocking. Life expectancy is only 57 years compared with the Latin American average of 69. Less than half of the population is literate. Only about one child in five of secondary-school age actually attends secondary school. Health conditions are similarly poor; vaccination coverage for children, for example, is only about 25 percent. Only about one-fourth of the population has access to safe water. In short, the overwhelming majority of the Haitian population is living in deplorable conditions of extreme poverty. In the face of this daunting reality, Haiti’s population continues to grow at a high rate estimated at almost 200,000 people per year.

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/EXTPA/0,,contentMDK:20207590~menuPK:443285~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:430367,00.html

The article lists “political instability, woefully poor governance and corruption” as a major cause of poverty in Haiti, confirming my friend’s point.

About 10.8 million people live in Haiti, slightly less than the population of Cuba.

Russia

Russia Britain EU
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (The Associated Press)

Or, we could live in Russia, where an average of 19.2 million Russians – or 13.4 percent of the population – were living last year on less than 9,452 roubles ($139) a month, the minimum subsistence level determined by the Russian government in the fourth quarter.

This figure represents a 20 percent increase year-on-year, with an average 16.1 million people living below the poverty threshold in 2014.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/22/millions-more-russians-living-in-poverty-as-economic-crisis-bites

Politically, Vladimir Putin, serving his third term as president of Russia, has made several controversial decisions during his most recent term (which began in 2012). In December 2012, he signed into a law a ban on the U.S. adoption of Russian children. According to Putin, the legislation aimed to make it easier for Russians to adopt native orphans. However, the adoption ban spurred international controversy.

Putin further strained relations with the United States the following year when he granted asylum to Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking classified information from the National Security Agency.

The United States is not a military aggressor, as Russia occasionally is:

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics, amid widespread political unrest in the Ukraine … Putin sent Russian troops into Crimea, a peninsula in the country’s northeast coast of the Black Sea. The peninsula had been part of Russia until Nikita Khrushchev, former Premier of the Soviet Union, gave it to Ukraine in 1954. Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, claimed that approximately 16,000 troops invaded the territory, and Russia’s actions caught the attention of several European countries and the United States, who refused to accept the legitimacy of a referendum in which the majority of the Crimean population voted to secede from the Ukraine and reunite with Russia. 

Putin defended his actions, however, claiming that the troops sent into Ukraine were only meant to enhance Russia’s military defenses within the country — referring to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which has its headquarters in Crimea. He also vehemently denied accusations by other nations, particularly the United States, that Russia intended to engage Ukraine in war.

http://www.biography.com/people/vladimir-putin-9448807#2014-winter-olympics

Iraq

Worst of all, we could live in Iraq or Syria.

Mideast Iraq
Iraqi security forces and civilians gather at the site after a car bomb hit Karada, a busy shopping district in the center of Baghdad, Iraq, on Saturday. (The Associated Press)

ISIS claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed more than 125 people and injured about 150 others Saturday evening in Baghdad, Iraq.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on Twitter. The group claimed it was targeting Shiite neighborhoods.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/02/middleeast/baghdad-car-bombs/

The attack is only the latest in a string of attacks dating back several years.

ISIS has seized large swathes of land stretching from central Iraq to northern Syria, where it controls millions of people. In 2014 the group declared the establishment of a “caliphate” – a successor of past Islamic empires governed according to Sharia law …

Ultimately, the terrorist group wants to build a caliphate that will rule the world. 

ISIS welcomes confrontation as fulfilling an apocalyptic prophecy of a battle between jihadist and ‘infidel’ armies. 

The terrorist group has recruited fighters from abroad and it international network of terrorist cells has staged horrific attacks all over the world. 

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/644304/ISIS-Islamic-State-Destroy-West-Terrorist-Syria-Iraq

We could live in a nation where hatred rules. If you don’t believe like I do, you die.

United States

Most of us don’t have to worry about where our next meal will come from. We don’t have to live in fear that our own government wants to kill us.

As bad as things sometimes get around here, we still have plenty of control over our own lives.

I don’t like the direction our country is headed. We are losing respect for people who don’t think like us. I hope and pray that we learn (again) how to get along with each other, so we don’t implode like Haiti or become terrorists like ISIS.

Even so, we’ve got it good in this country. Let’s give thanks for our freedoms. This country isn’t perfect, but it sure beats any alternative that’s out there.

Happy 4th, everyone.

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