Last week, we celebrated the Fourth of July. That day looks different for every family. Many come out and join the annual Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade. Some celebrate with family and friends, swimming and barbecuing.
Regardless of how you celebrate, it’s impossible to ignore the beautiful (and loud!) fireworks shows that go long into the night.
But what does the Fourth of July really mean to our country?
Obviously, the Fourth of July is the day we celebrate America’s birthday — the day we officially declared our independence. For me, I attended numerous public celebrations and barbecued with friends and family. And I definitely heard the fireworks, as did my dog Baxter, who insisted on staying in his annual hiding place under my bathroom sink.
Throughout the day, many of us reflected on the ideals upon which our country was founded, and whether and to what extent America — on its 247th birthday — is living up to them.
“Liberty and justice for all,” played in my head. Liberty: the idea that everyone in a society is free from oppression of all kinds. Justice: righteousness, fairness, equity.
While I looked around throughout the day, people appeared to be happy. Smiles on faces, kids waving flags.
But we also know that many American families are struggling. And I know, as much as I wish it weren’t the case, that we don’t always live up to the ideals we celebrate that day.
If we were, homelessness wouldn’t have increased last year and so many people — including veterans and children — wouldn’t be living and dying on our streets. If we were, people wouldn’t be one health emergency away from financial collapse. If we were, people could find a home they could afford and feel assured that their children would be able to afford living in the neighborhood they grew up in. If we were, women would have a right to choose and kids wouldn’t be afraid of getting shot while at school. If we were, families would be thriving, not struggling to survive.
But July 4th should also be our inspiration. We can do better, and I believe it is our patriotic duty to bring our country closer to our ideals. That’s how we give back to a country that has given us so much.
When it comes to homelessness, we must invest in permanent housing, starting with veterans and families with children. The initial goal is to get people off the streets and safely inside, preferably somewhere that has services to support them and meets their needs, like taking in their belongings, pets, kids and partners with them. That is hard to come by, and we need more of it.
But we cannot focus merely on temporary solutions. This crisis requires investment in permanent solutions, including building more permanent housing people can actually afford, as well as more job training and placement, mental health and addiction services, and other wrap-around services.
We also have to be sure people don’t fall into homelessness in the first place. This requires ensuring we have enough housing people can afford, good stable jobs that pay them well, and health care that is affordable and accessible.
When addressing health care access, we must start by ensuring that no one should be denied health care because they can’t afford it — it’s as simple as that. No one should suffer a serious injury and hesitate to enter the emergency room, knowing that the medical bill could force them out of their home.
We should be treating people based on how sick they are, not how heavy their pockets are.
We also must lower costs for health care coverage and prescription drugs, provide additional transparency in medical billing, and find a workable path to everyone having coverage.
All of these changes would go a long way to ensuring economic stability for families, save lives and lower the burden on taxpayers.
To ensure we have a stable economy where families can thrive, we must re-establish a strong middle class that suits the 21st century. We can support both workers and businesses by building a green energy economy right here in our district and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.
By ensuring people have good, mortgage-paying jobs, opportunities to run successful small businesses, and doing it while creating a green economy that protects our environment, we are building an economy for the long term that we can rely on.
Solutions to our homelessness and housing crises, stabilizing and growing our economy, and ensuring families have health care they can rely on are not easy tasks. It takes dedication, persistence and the ability to bring people together. It takes elected officials who have the political will to take bold action. And while it’s a challenge, it’s a worthy one.
I always appreciate a good burger. I also appreciate a moment to take in all that this country has given us. But Independence Day is also about appreciating why we fought for independence in the first place. It’s about striving to pursue the ideals that compelled the founding fathers 247 years ago: Liberty and Justice for all.
Happy Belated Fourth, friends.
Kipp Mueller is a Canyon Country resident and candidate for the state’s 21st Senate District, which encompasses the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.