In his essay “A fire in the basement” Bob Herbert gives many examples that ultimately ask “what has happened to the American values of freedom, justice, opportunity and equality that separated us from other nations?” Herbert says that our society no longer cares to uphold these once fundamental values. Herbert declares that, “If I had one wish for this country it would be for leadership that would arouse the consciousness of the masses to the deceit and injustice all around them”(402) It’s obvious that Herbert is distraught by the current condition of our nation’s value system. And I must agree that we have lost sight of what really matters in today’s society and that we need a leader who will lead the people of this nation out of the dark and back to the original ideals of freedom, justice, opportunity, and equality that built up this nation.
As stated before, Herbert uses many examples of inequality and injustice that he has encountered in The United States, including the incarceration of an innocent eleven year old girl for 3 years, or a young soldier’s life being irreparably changed by a roadside bomb that severed his spinal cord in Iraq. Now, many people may say that these are not new problems, that these kind of issues have always been around, which I say is just as bad, if not worse than if these were new issues.
We as a nation should have, ‘lived and learned’ from these experiences, not just let them continue for centuries. Herbert himself says “It would be one thing if stories like these were rare, if they were bizarre onetime occurrences that we learned a lesson from and prevented from happening again. But the stories I cover are not rare”(398). After illustrating these examples Herbert continues by saying “I’m troubled as never before about what’s happening in the United States right now”(395) Herbert goes on to explain what an optimistic time he grew up in, that in the 1950’s and 60’s jobs were plentiful, living conditions were improving, and education was becoming more accessible. Even despite problems like the Vietnam War, racial inequalities, and assassination there was a general feeling of improvement, as if we were moving forward and away from the things we had done wrong and towards a more promising future. Herbert no long has this optimistic feeling as he travels the country, and neither do I. The general feeling I get of this nation is decline, we have been under the impression that we are the greatest country on earth for so long; that it took us too long to realize what a detrimental turn our nation had taken. The transition was gradual enough that we didn’t notice till it was completed and the wealthy took over with only one goal: keep the wealthy, wealthy.
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”(399). Herbert uses this quotation by Franklin Roosevelt to show that the United States as a...