Like many Latinos in the United States, I was raised in Miami to believe that if one worked hard and made sacrifices, there wasn’t a goal that could not be achieved. With just hard work – not money or fame – anything was possible.
In terms of politics, my Cuban father would say of the U.S. presidential elections that it was all – now this is a very Cuban saying – “one shithead against another.” He implied that it didn’t matter who was in power. The interesting thing is my father always preferred the Republicans, perhaps teaching me a very important lesson: in this country, politics count. They count a lot.
Now that my husband and I are very involved politically, I have seen how our political system functions firsthand. Foremost, I have learned that voting isn’t enough.
Those of us who love this country must be politically active, understand the positions of our political candidates, and call them or send them an e-mail or text message when they break their promises. It is the only way to combat the influence of money by corporations.
How is it possible in this country for a corporation to buy political influence? The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants us freedom of expression and the right to peaceably assemble. Unfortunately, this freedom also includes the right for companies to “express” their interests with money. They can buy ads on TV against a bill or a candidate, pay people to hold signs at rallies, and even ask their workers to donate directly to politicians.
These businesses have spent so much money in politics that they have even bought the right to pollute our air and drinking water. Because of this, no one has suffered more than Latinos, according to these statistics:
• More than a third of Latinos in the United States live in western states where arsenic, industrial chemical substances and residuals from fertilizers pollute the local drinking water supply.
• Because Latino children tend to live in areas with high levels of air pollution, they are three times as likely as Caucasian children to die of asthma. Latino children are 60% more likely to suffer an asthma attack than a Caucasian child.
• Almost 88% of all farmworkers in this country are Latinos. Because of this, Latinos and their families are regularly exposed to toxic pesticides in the air and drinking water, and carry a high risk of cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders.
• Latino children are twice as likely as Caucasian children to have lead in their blood at higher levels than the standards for lead poisoning established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
All of these sources can be found on our Latino Community resources page.
Intellectually, I understand the intention of the First Amendment of our Constitution. It was these liberties that brought my father and my grandparents from Cuba. However, in a democracy like ours we should also remember our values as human beings. A business should not have the right to take away our health, which is also recorded in the Constitution.
The reason businesses have gotten away with making us sick is because we, the public assembly, have not paid attention. Corporations pollute our neighborhoods because they think we are not going to complain. Or, they think they can scare us with stories of job loss if we don’t allow them to pollute. The claim about job loss is not true. There are no statistics that support this claim. Also, when such claims are made, they don’t take into consideration the addition of “green” jobs like implementing filters in their plants, nor the great cost in medical bills. Since Latinos are more likely than any other group in this country not to have health insurance, it is a burden to go to the doctor and pay out-of-pocket for medicine to treat asthma, cancer or other grave illnesses.
Today I want all of you to join me in telling these corporations that we are paying attention and that we won’t accept their lies. Moms Clean Air Force is a non-profit organization mobilizing parents across the country to reclaim the public’s health, and fight for the future of our children and future generations. Here we hope to educate the public on the public health threat that is air pollution and a lot of toxic chemicals. Also, we will make it easy for you all to take action.
We will let you know what proposed laws affect us and when we need to send an e-mail or call the office of our Congress members. We will let you know which politicians are taking money from corporations that pollute. In English, there is a saying, “Knowledge is power.” It couldn’t ring more true than now.
Please join Moms Clean Air Force to make parents the biggest influencer of American politics. Together, there is no corporation or politician that can take us for granted. Thank you!