Friday, July 13, 2012
The American Dream.
The American Dream, according to the historian, James Truslow Adams, means that no matter where or when they were born, rich or poor, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement." Martin Luther King Jr said, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” He said his dream was deeply rooted in the American dream and said, “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
This was a dream we had to fight for. The United States of America was created through the bravery, persistence, and sacrifice of thousands of men who fought against incredible odds. They faced down the mightiest military power on the planet; barefoot, half-naked and freezing. On Christmas, 1776, they marched across New Jersey to attack a well-equipped, highly trained enemy, and the next day they did it again. And, they endured hardship for six long years, inspired by the words of Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” And, triumph they did in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia.
Then, as now, those who would risk everything for the dream of liberty and the pursuit of happiness were in a distinct minority. Then, as now, most people readily bought security at the price of freedom. One of General Washington’s great frustrations was to watch New Jersey and Pennsylvania farmers selling their produce to the British army while American soldiers starved. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, FDR interned American citizens of Japanese ancestry, and George W Bush foisted the Homeland Security Act on us, all in the name of security. The American public has always cravenly acquiesced.
Today, the middle class is shrinking. Poverty is becoming the norm. The majority sat mutely by as politicians agreed to borrow the money to wage wars in foreign lands, while reducing revenue from those most able to pay. As the bills become due, these same politicians choose to impoverish the general populace, and further reward the wealthy. Thus, we find ourselves watching the once sharp image of the American Dream fade away to a vague metaphor.