One section of the Declaration of Independence states that ‘all men [and women] are created equal,’ but does that statement reflect reality? How many times have I heard the mantra: “Pull yourself up by your own boot straps. If you want it bad enough you can get it.’

There are many examples both past and present where individuals were able to overcome all obstacles in pursuit of some personal goal or life-long dream. Whether it was poverty, racism or a less than ideal home environment, some were still able to overcome. But what of all the others?

Without a stable, loving, nurturing home environment the chances of success diminish dramatically. Now comes scientific research presented by neuroscientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory – and hence the ability to escape poverty for the rest of the child’s life. Even pregnant mothers living in a stressful environment create stress hormones in their blood that damage the neural development of their unborn. Over exposure to TV programs both banal and violent affect regions of the brain that are reinforced or diminished by what an individual sees or does not see. Similarly computers and the games played on them, while offering more stimulation through hand and eye coordination, the effect is the same.

As an example of capitalism’s never-ending quest for the next big money maker, a friend of mine gave me an article with a picture of two individuals engaged in the event of Ultimate Fighting. As most of us know, almost anything goes in the effort to get your opponent to cry “uncle.” This violence desensitizing event would be bad enough if the participants were adults, but no these were two eight-year olds! So far only Missouri has sanctioned these events with such young participants.

What may I ask do all these examples have in common and what does the future hold for many of these individuals? Will it be a minimum wage job, the military or prison? While there is a conscious effort being made to under educate many of our young people, leaving them woefully unprepared for the jobs of the 21st century, while the proliferation of violent video games not only desensitizes many of our young people to violence both at home and abroad, but creates an environment and situations which have negative influences on the young and developing brain. The effects of this policy are starting to be revealed. A startling statistic showing the makeup of our all ‘volunteer’ military gives some insight.

Never before has the physically stretched military accepted recruits from the bottom 20 percentile of educational achievement, waived criminal records, or accepted individuals convicted of a felony to join the ranks of the officer class. The latest statistics available show an increase of over 100% in the recruitment of people with criminal convictions from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007.

The efforts to replenish the ranks of the dead and wounded has resulted in the lowest percentage ever of recruits who are high school graduates. It seems that only those whose other options were limited, were motivated by a false sense of patriotism, or were promised educational opportunities not affordable at home were sucked into the pentagon meat grinder of the Iraqi war.

Not only are we giving deadly weapons to individuals who should not have them, but what of the aftermath? Those who survive come back less than whole both physically and mentally to an administration that does all in its power to deny these veterans all the medical and financial benefits they deserve. Trying to integrate these damaged individuals into society would be a difficult task under the best of circumstances but lack of treatment, suicides, foreclosures and bankruptcies tell a different story. Why are our veterans who gave so much in this horrendous war being treated this way? WAR IS HELL!

All indications are that a Democratic administration will have to deal with the prompt and orderly removal of ALL the military, military contractors and the bases they occupy. Once that is accomplished and a government is elected by the people and not selected by the United States huge sums of money need to be given to rebuild their country to pre war levels with a sincere apology from the next president given to the Iraqi people for all the death and destruction caused by Bush and his neocons.