Kirsten Andersen

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Kirsten Andersen
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Senate Candidate Bob Franks of New Jersey

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel

We Are More Than the Sum Of Our Gross National Product

My mother is obsessed with "Survivor." Each Wednesday night at 8 PM, she sits down and turns on CBS for an hour of wide-eyed awe as she watches the chosen ones--those with the chance to win a million dollars. Never mind that contestants have to eat live bugs. Never mind the utter lack of anything resembling a shower. Never mind that after taxes, the winner's fortune will come to less than half a million mom is hooked. I believe it is the only program she knows the time and day for by heart. In addition, she knows the names and occupations of everyone on the island. She knows who got kicked off when, who ate which filthy creature first, and the rules of the weird 'tribal council.' She watches religiously, and her reason is clear: she wants to know who will take home the cash.

It is the same reason why millions tune in to watch stodgy Regis Philbin on ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," and why FOX's ill-fated "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire" was also widely viewed. It is the same reason why people will watch ABC's "Making of the Band". It is the reason why people play the lottery, trade tech stocks on the internet, and why some women with dubious morals move to the Silicon Valley in search of young dot com millionaires.

America has become unhealthily obsessed with the almighty dollar. Ever since William Jefferson Clinton said, "It's the economy, stupid," people have jumped into the rat race with gleeful abandon. It's as if the country's ideals have changed from "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" to "Life and liberty are nice, but happiness is the pursuit of a Mercedes SLK Convertible, really hefty stock options, and retirement at 30." It seems that people are willing to live with any number of societal atrocities as long as their wallets are stuffed with Benjamin Franklins.

I wont revisit the behavior of our 43rd president, but we all know far too well what people are willing to forgive in times of plenty. There are other examples, though: teenagers murder their newborns and discard them in dumpsters, then get off in 18 months for good behavior "They were just scared kids! It would have ruined their lives! They had their whole futures ahead of them!" What about the future of that brutally slain infant? What about the message this sends to other 'scared youth'? Are we saying that if something is going to interfere with your future prosperity and material happiness, that it's forgivable to remove the obstacle at any cost?

I believe that the children of this country are getting a terrifying message. Some of the most disturbing things I've heard recently are some of the arguments in the Elian mess. It shocks me that one of the most prominent arguments for keeping the child in the states is the relative wealth of his Miami relatives versus the poverty he would face in Cuba. I have heard that argument as often, if not more often, than the fact that Cuba is a communist dictatorship where people are treated as nothing more than the property of the state. That is horrifying to me. Since when did money rank right up there next to basic human freedom?

Our forefathers left the comparative wealth and comfort of their English homes to come to a place where they could be free, albeit poor and basically homeless. We shouldn't take the liberty they won us for granted.

Prosperity is not the best thing about America. We are more than the sum of our Gross National Product. We are a free nation, with the right to express our thoughts and ideas. How do you think we got so rich in the first place? In many nations, your ideas belong to the government, and so do your profits from them. In the middle of this time of money worship and dizzying prosperity, maybe we should pause to remember what made these riches possible, as well as what the money is worth to us.

Is a big house in the 'right' neighborhood with a foreign luxury car in the driveway worth the destruction of our children's values? If we are living comfortably with no financial worries, do we care if our freedoms are taken away one by one? What is the price we are willing to pay for our affluence? Consider these questions the next time you're tempted to make a sacrifice for a buck, whether you're taking action that goes against your previous ideals, or just missing dinner with the kids to work late. Consider the message your actions send to others, and make your decisions accordingly-the world will be a better, if slightly less profitable place.

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