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    A Different Lens

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | July 2nd, 2023

    A Different Lens

    This past Friday, we wished each other a happy holiday weekend. I even attended a Fourth of July barbecue. I just kept thinking about the last three rulings by the Supreme Court. I went back to my usual. I brought out my copy of the Declaration of Independence. I read it with a different lens.

    The Declaration of Independence is considered the birth certificate of the United States. The document was written in 1776 by King George III in response to how Britain treated the thirteen colonies then. The signers of the document listed their grievances. Then they declared that ‘…these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved….’ 

    Although their grievances could be summarized in one sentence – they were tired of being oppressed, I was struck by their last grievance- # 27 –

    He (referring to King George III) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

    The reference to Indian Savages took me abackI am reminded that there is no America without remembering that not only was America built by the labor of enslaved people, but it was also built on stolen lands and the genocide of indigenous peoples. This Independence Day, this should be at the forefront. When we talk of health inequity, the descendants of these two groups are most affected. I pay homage to enslaved and indigenous peoples. These were the oppressed people.

    In the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, they defined why one should not be oppressed –‘…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….’ What does this mean in 2023 in the context of health? 

    All men are created equal – Each one of us is created by a sperm meeting an egg to be fertilized regardless of our sex, color, race, or ethnicity. We are more alike than we are different. We were created the same way. 

    Unalienable Rights – Basic rights should not be taken away or denied to a human being. We are a rich country. Food, shelter, and health are basic rights. No one should go hungry in America. Everyone deserves access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay.

    Life – We have been given this one life to live. No one has the right to take that away. Healthcare disparity is real. Black lives matter. Indigenous people’s lives matter. We cannot remain silent. 

    Liberty – Although we have the freedom to do what we want, I am reminded of my father’s saying – “one man’s freedom ends where another man begins.” Yes, we have the right to decide whether to exercise or not. We have the right to take our medication or not. We have the right to choose what we would like to eat. We must proactively educate ourselves to make informed decisions regarding our health.

    Pursuit of Happiness – We all have the right to be happy. We have to strive not to make our Happiness dependent on another person. We are ultimately responsible for our Happiness.

    Happy Independence Day

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