Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are You Living The American Dream?

The American Dream?This topic came up on another blog. The piece discussed what the American dream is not, without being too definitive about what it is. That's when I dropped my post in the midst of the discussion, hoping that it would force a new examination of these oft-repeated words.

It got one comment. The comment followed my statement, and was positive. The host responded briefly, but it was clear that my comment received little more than a perfunctory glance.

I'm not angry.

It's a good blog, but the locust have descended upon it, threatening to strip it of the verdant growth of thoughtful comments, fresh ideas, intellectual banter, the vastly different, but interesting perspectives, and the treasure-trove of information we've come to expect and appreciate--all that the blog used to be before the coming of the locusts: the ideologues, the trolls, and the malcontents.

Five regulars make up roughly 72% of the posts. The remaining 28% often conceal a few nuggets of gold, and a gem or two, but the nuggets and the gems are becoming rarer.

And that's a shame.

I read a blog as much for the content, as for the comments, and see them both as an intricate part of the overall experience I've come to expect from frequenting a blog.

In case you're curious, and didn't see it: Here's the post I left:

What, in fact, is the American dream, and when do you know that you have it?

Does it come on like a cold, with symptoms so clear that you can't mistake it for anything else, like say the flu?

Does it creep up behind you in the night, and snatch your purse, or your wallet, and leave you glad that you didn't lose more, like say your life.

I'm thinking about all those lottery winners who won millions. If you had asked them right after their sudden win, if they're living the American dream, I believe to a man or a woman that they would have grinned broadly and said, "Yes."

Are they living the American dream? Hard to say, too often these mega-millions winners end up dead, or as impoverished as before they won, or meet with some other ignominious end.

What is the America dream, then? Is it material wealth? Or is it something else?

I'm thinking about all those starlets, and other celebrities of stage, and screen, and courts, and fields, and courses, and tracks.

Are they living the American dream? Hard to say, too often they're caught up in scandals--sex scandals, drug scandals, and ripoff scandals.

What is the American dream, then? Is it fame and public acclaim? Or is it something else?

Martin Luther King defined what he thought the American dream to be, and immortalized it in a speech, of which most of us are familiar, his, I Have A Dream, speech.

Upon close examination of the speech, you're struck by how often King used the words "free," "liberty" and "freedom," or some other similar reference:

"Emancipation Proclamation," and "a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity," and "the solid rock of brotherhood."

What is the America dream, then? Is it freedom? Or is it something else?

Our founding fathers conceptualized it by encapsulating it with these words from our Declaration Of Independence, ostensibly to enumerate a deficiency in governance to which they rebelled:

"We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Now this brief passage is open to endless interpretations, and have been so subjected.

But what's remarkable about it, is that man's "unalienable Rights," which are "self-evident," come not from government, but from God ("their Creator"), suggesting that it's government's role to assure that these Rights aren't trampled by the whims of men, or tyrants.

If this is the American dream, then it's nothing more than a Gift from God, and not man. And the government that governs best, is not the one that governs least, but the one that seeks to protect those "unalienable Rights."

We might quibble over how best to do that, and when we have done that, but the charge is unmistakable:

Government is entrusted with the solemn duty to protect what God has given to each equally--an endowment, a Gift of "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

So, is this the American dream--a Gift from God, and a government charged with the protection of that Gift?

I like to think so.
So, to answer the question posed in the title of this piece, "Are You Living The American Dream?", let me say it depends, and answer it this way: You live and experience the American dream in direct proportion to how well government protects the Gift with which God has endowed us all--"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

8 comments:

Seda said...

That's an excellent comment, BD, and deserves recognition. I'm with you - it IS a gift from God. And government - legitimate government - is charged with protecting that gift.

Having said that, I think that living the American Dream depends not only in proportion to how well government protects that gift, but also to the extent that each individual embraces those rights, claims them, uses them, makes them meaningful and alive. A drug addict living under the protection of a liberal, open, democratic government is still enslaved, and so not indulging in their inalienable rights. Enjoying those rights is a proactive choice, independent of the condition of any government. The most enlightened among us find the way to live them even under the most tyrannical government - but those who are that enlightened are few indeed.

So it is incumbent on us all to support the establishment and maintenance of the government that protects those rights.

The Democrats are a weak reed, but anyone who votes Republican violates every legitimate principle on which this nation was founded.

Black Diaspora said...

Seda, well said. There's very little I can add to your already remarkable comments. Thanks for broadening the concept.

Here's the part I like best:

"The most enlightened among us find the way to live them even under the most tyrannical government - but those who are that enlightened are few indeed."

That you're aware that that is so makes you "enlightened." I only know a few that know this, and live it.

Indeed, we can enjoy, and embrace these Gifts under the most tyrannical of governance, and under the severest of conditions.

You're right, of course, the Dream is several things: a Gift, an Opportunity, and an Indissoluble Part of our eternal being.

"The Democrats are a weak reed, but anyone who votes Republican violates every legitimate principle on which this nation was founded."

I totally agree.

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

Interesting!

msladydeborah said...

Bd you raise some excellents points in this post.

I think that the imagery of the American Dream depends on what you think is important in life. For some individuals the dream will always be centered around the belief that those who have all the material trappings of capitalism have it. Don't you find it ironic that many of the lottery winners often end up bankrupt? Which is an indication that they are truly clueless about what money is about.

But money has its limitations. It cannot purchase peace of mind nor does it purchase inner happiness.

Right now, whether people want to admit it or not the American Dream is like a distorted nightmare. I don't know how other people feel about the state of the union but it is like hell in a handbasket in my opinion. We are all shouldering some form of burden in the current climate.

I cannot honestly say that I have ever truly held a vision of an American Dream to heart. It has too many sharp edges and landmines to be something that I could ever fully embrace.

I have learned that freedom begins within one thoughts and eventually works its way into acts of liberation in real time.

Black Diaspora said...

@msladydeborah: "Don't you find it ironic that many of the lottery winners often end up bankrupt? Which is an indication that they are truly clueless about what money is about.

It is ironic. I term money the great magnifier. It magnifies who and what we are. A small amount magnifies us in a small way. A large amount magnifies us in a large way.

If we have a good heart before receiving a massive amount of money, we will continue to have a good heart, and use it to spread good.

If we're inclined to be self-destructive before receiving a massive amount of money, we will hasten that self destruction.

"Right now, whether people want to admit it or not the American Dream is like a distorted nightmare."

For many, it's just that, a "nightmare."

I'm revisiting this theme in my next blog entry, but coming at it obliquely, rather than head-on, and will address why the American Dream has become a "nightmare."

"I cannot honestly say that I have ever truly held a vision of an American Dream to heart. It has too many sharp edges and landmines to be something that I could ever fully embrace."

And I understand that, too. My next blog entry addresses that, as well. How prescient you are!

"I have learned that freedom begins within one thoughts and eventually works its way into acts of liberation in real time."

For sure, freedom is a state of mind, a state of being, and we can be as free as we choose, as long as we embrace that state.

A state of being (any state, actually) creates results in our world--or as you put it, "eventually works its way into acts of liberation in real time."

Ernesto said...

The American Dream, as put forth by the propagandists of capitalism, is not only a lie, but a poisonous device to distract people from the many crimes that allow great wealth to be accumulated by individuals. The worst part of it, and one that is rarely if ever mentioned even by leftists, is that it is totally unsustainable. It is literally killing us and the current poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico is a stark, in your face illustration of this.

Black Diaspora said...

Capitalism is "unsustainable" in the long run. Its weakness: It must continue to expand to survive. That's one reason why we have McDonald's franchises in places around the world you'd never guess.

Constructive Feedback said...

For a person that is self titled "Black Diaspora" you sure spend a lot of time focusing upon conservative, capitalist, Republican adversaries.

It seems that your "exile" in this capitalistic nation that the Slavers brought your ancestors to is more permanent - and out of necessity than you would like to admit.

Do you not see the irony in your "American Dream" scenario? Whereas you might be inclined to disarm the "rich" into believing that it is their national duty to allow you to relieve them of some of their fortune for the benefit of others THE GREATER FLAW in your argument is that you rarely have such a comment cast upon the un-rich as you convince them to charitably invest in their community interests in education, economic standing and security. Instead you realize that people demand money and thus your need to remain within a system that has redistribution system.