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  • Autumn Shimer

PHS Honors Essay Project: A Civil Nation

Civility is a behavior we are taught from the moment we are born. We learn to act kindly and follow rules. However, it is difficult to expect civility from a nation's people when the nation itself is not civilized. Human life must be the top priority in a civilized society. Unfortunately, in the United States, this is not the case.

Human lives in a civilized society should always be protected through just rules and laws. If these rules are not in place, violence often results. People are hurt or worse, killed. Violence is a major issue that plagues nations across the world. Countries must put controls and regulations within their systems to prevent this. The novel, Lord of the Flies demonstrates the effects of a society lacking rules. The children on the island resorted to violence after being away from the rules and regulations of their native society.

“Roger stooped, picked up a stone, aimed, and threw it at Henry— threw it to miss. ... there was a space round Henry... into which he dare not throw. Here, invisible yet strong, was the taboo of the old life. Round the squatting child was the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law. Roger’s arm was conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him and was in ruins” (Golding 87).

At this point in the novel, the children were beginning to lose their memory of the rules they had in their past society. Roger began to act violently when he threw the stone, but he still had enough memory of the rules from his past civilization to stop from hitting Henry. There were no enforced rules in place that could have prevented this violence from happening. The boys on the island were becoming uncivil because they were forgetting the laws and there was no enforcement to keep them under control. Therefore, a civilized society needs enforced rules to prevent violence and keep people safe.

Just as the boys’ lack of rules on the island resulted in violence, violence exists in our society because our government fails to adequately regulate gun ownership and possession. This failure to protect citizens often results in harm or death to many innocent Americans. Mass shootings have become a regular part of life in this country. We have almost become desensitized to them. As of October 22nd, there have been 340 mass shootings this year (Gun Violence Archive). This number carries the weight of more than 1,500 innocent people injured or killed. (Gun Violence Archive) More could have been done to prevent these tragic events. Our country needs stronger gun control and improved background checks. Almost anyone who wants a gun can have one. Through its inaction, our government raises our risk of becoming a mass shooting victim. Seventeen year old, Lily Krolin, wrote a poem about the Parkland shooting that happened in the past year. She wrote, “...This is just another shooting that our, our professional hypocrites, our/ thoughtful representatives who pray for our children will hide behind their backs,/ anticipating their constituents will soon forget...”(qtd. In Detroit Free Press). She, like many others, is dissatisfied with our government and lawmakers who sit idly by while innocent people are being massacred. Congress is unwilling to take the necessary steps to reduce our risks. They take sums of money from National Riflemans’ Association lobbyists to ensure what they consider to be citizens’ “Second Amendment right to bear arms”. This interpretation of the constitution ensures that people can keep buying semi-automatic killing machines with the least regulation possible. Legislators’ acceptance of the lobbyists’ position and money clearly shows a lack of concern for human life. Until a president signs a bill in favor of stricter gun control into law, gun violence will continue at an epidemic rate. It is disgusting and inhumane to allow these acts of violence to reoccur unchecked. This state of affairs is plainly uncivil.

A government's empathy for both its citizens and the citizens of other countries is another key factor to gauge civility. Government leaders must understand people's struggles in order to offer effective humanitarian aid. A nation cannot be so selfish to let others suffer while they thrive and still be called civilized. Refugees leaving violence in war-torn nations are among those that need the most help. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, all economically well-off, have neglected their civil responsibility to accept refugees. The European Union (EU) developed a plan in 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees between all member countries to relieve the flow of asylum-seekers into Mediterranian countries. Since then, “ ... the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 of the 2,000 asylum-seekers it had been designated[.]...Hungary and Poland have received none”(EU to Sue Poland) The EU is suing these nations for not accepting their responsibility. Ethical nations use their privilege to help others showed its country’s civility these countries are not showing empathy to the refugees or to the other EU countries that are forced to carry their economic burden.

Similarly, The United States has shown a decrease in empathy for refugees and therefore a reduction in civility. From 1980, when the United Nations (UN) Refugee Act was signed, to 2017 the United States has led the world in refugee resettlement. Each year since, our country has reduced the number it would accept. According to the Pew Research Center in 2018, “...the U.S. resettled 23,000, down from 33,000 the previous year – and a recent high of 97,000 in 2016” (Radford). This shows our country’s reluctance to use its wealth in a humanitarian way as it had in the past. The United States has had a civil decline, just as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have. While the United States government defends our reduction of refugees in the interest of national security, it is inaccurate to correlate refugee immigration with crime. According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, looking at the “10 cities in the US that received the most refugees relative to the size of their population between 2006 and 2015 ...nine out of 10 of the communities actually became considerably more safe, both in terms of their levels of violent and property crime”(Is There a Link). Without worry for the concern of national security, the United States has no excuse to refuse refugees. Our nation must play its part as a responsible, civilized leader.

Nations must provide basic human rights to their citizens to be civilized. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 25,“...Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including … medical care and necessary social services…” (Universal Declaration). The United Nations’ declaration, adopted in 1948, has been an internationally agreed-upon benchmark for many years. As a result, nations such as Sweden have developed a universal access, tax-funded healthcare system, keeping comprehensive healthcare accessible to all citizens. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2013 report states, “The Swedish health care system is often considered a model for other countries to emulate, both because of its excellent outcomes compared to OECD countries and several well-developed strategies to assure and improve the quality of its health care…” (qtd. In OECD: Sweden). The system that Sweden provides clearly follows the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing quality healthcare to all.

The right to healthcare as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is often ignored in the United States. Numerous people are sick or dying because they cannot afford or do not have access to healthcare. Part of the problem is drug prices, which are the highest in the world. Nearly half of all citizens take prescription drugs. Insulin is a common drug that millions of people need to live. One hundred million U.S. adults are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report (New CDC Report:) In 1996 the cost of Insulin was 21 dollars for a month’s supply, now that same drug costs 295 dollars, an increase of 1,124% over 20 years (Ramsey). Untreated diabetes can lead to nerve damage, kidney failure, and even death. As Insulin prices continue to rise, diabetics are making dangerous sacrifices to acquire the drug. Some turn to the black market to get their Insulin or take lower doses to make their supply last longer. This is extremely dangerous and has killed many people like 21-year-old Jesimya Scherer.

“In addition to managing his diabetes since... age ten, Jesi worked two jobs ... and was working on becoming an electrician. This year, however, it proved to be not enough, and he began rationing Insulin, unable to fill prescriptions until the next payday. He was hospitalized in April with diabetic ketoacidosis. In June,... he called in sick to work. He was found dead the following day.”(High Insulin Costs)

Jesi died because our government did not adequately regulate the cost of his Insulin. Congress has the power to force drug companies to lower their prices so the common man can afford them. This is basic to compliance with the healthcare provision of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Congressmen must listen to the millions of suffering people who cannot afford the outrageous prices of prescription drugs. Drug companies abuse their customers by taking advantage of patent law to protect themselves from competition and maximize profit. Each time a new drug is patented, it is protected from competition for 20 years. Companies, when a patent is about to run out, will make minor changes in the drug formulation to extend their previous patent (Fox). Congress can easily amend this loophole in patent law to eliminate the practice and promote competition. Competition allows for less costly generic drugs. Although Drug companies claim their prices are high to afford research and development of new drugs,

“David Mitchell [founder and president of the advocacy group, Patients for Affordable Drugs,] points out that much of the research leading to new medications is done through the National Institutes of Health using tax dollars. He says drug companies spend more on sales and marketing than on research and development.” (Why Are U.S.)

So, pharmaceutical companies’ argument that the high cost of drugs is due to expensive drug research is not entirely true. People are dying because our government allows it; no one should have to ration or go without their medicine. The United States hasn’t done anything to stop this reality. Our nation's lack of concern for the health of its people is a clear example of our inhumanity. Until our country complies with the healthcare provision of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it will not be treating its citizens in a civil manner regarding their healthcare.

A nation must look after human life to be considered a civilized society. The government’s responsibility is to protect, help, and provide. Our country does not follow these guidelines of civility as exemplified by the examples of gun control, refugee policy, and healthcare. The United States, therefore, cannot be considered as a civilized nation.

Works Cited

Detroit Free Press. “School Walkout Poem: 'We Will Not Let This Be Just Another

Shooting'.” Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press, 15 Mar. 2018,

“EU to Sue Poland, Hungary and Czechs for Refusing Refugee Quotas.” BBC

News, BBC, 7 Dec. 2017,

Fox, Erin. “How Pharma Companies Game the System to Keep Drugs Expensive.”

Harvard Business Review, 20 July 2017,

Goldings, William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin Books, 1999.

Gun Violence Archive.” Gun Violence Archive, 22 Oct. 2019,

“High Insulin Costs Are Killing Americans.” Right Care Alliance, Right Care

Alliance, 2019,

“Is There a Link Between Refugees and U.S. Crime Rates?” New American

Economy Research Fund, New American Economy Research Fund, 7 Feb. 2017,

“New CDC Report: More than 100 Million Americans Have Diabetes or

Prediabetes | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 July 2017,

“OECD: Sweden Has Excellent Healthcare but Must Improve Care Co-Ordination.”

SwedishHealthcare, Swedish Healthcare Academy, 18 Dec. 2014,

Radford, Jynnah, and Phillip Connor. “Canada Now Leads the World in Refugee

Resettlement, Surpassing the U.S.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 19 June 2019,

Ramsey, Lydia. “There's Something Odd about the Way Insulin Prices Change.”

Business Insider, Business Insider, 17 Sept. 2016,

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations,

“Why Are U.S. Prescription Drug Prices So High?” Commonwealth Fund, 17 Oct.


This is one of 24 essays that will be written by PHS Honors English students in collaboration with The Portland Beacon over the next six months. Ms. Chandra Polasek, PHS Honors English and Drama teacher, will provide the essays on a regular basis to The Beacon. All essays are original work of the students.

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