There's been a lot of talk about the ebbing away of the 'American Dream' lately.
However, as I observe what that means to a too-large segment of our population, it occurs to me that the difference between what they mean by the American Dream, and what most of us still believe it to be, needs articulating. I don't see anyone else tackling this job, so here goes.
Unless I'm much mistaken, most of us still understand that dream much the same as articulated nearly three millennia ago by the prophet Micah: "Every [person] shall sit under [their] own fig tree, and there will be no one to make them afraid." In contemporary terms, this means: everyone can have as much education as they want or need, medical care that doesn't bankrupt us, a job which earns them a decent and living wage and by which each of us can see we're contributing to the community as well as earning a living--and which, over time, enables us to buy a house and do our part towards keeping the money moving around and putting a bit by as well.And that anyone of any race can have a truly equal shot at this. Is this a fair articulation? If anyone wants to differ, please let's have feedback--but not before you read all of the post.
Now we go into a dark side, or rather a distortion, of this dream. It begins, at least in this post, with something grimly realistic said by Jefferson.
"For in a warm climate, no [person] will labor for [themselves] when he can make another labor for him." The observation of this, and the mindset accompanying that observation, is at the root of many of our currently acute problems.
Beginning with Jefferson's saying, this mindset is characterized by 1) treating most 'white' persons as if they are, or soon will be, plantation owners. 2) conversely treating most people of color, black and/or Latino (uncertain about some Asians) as slaves as one form or another and, hence, unworthy of decent wages, equal treatment, etc., 3) never-ending attempts to avoid honest work and to compel someone else to do one's own fair share.
"We are a band of brothers native to the soil,
Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil."
Y'all remember those opening lyrics to The Bonnie Blue Flag? Y'all know what sort of 'property' is meant there? Not landed property; no! Oh no: the property mentioned therein is the 'property' which a white man could of old compel to labor for him. That's right; human 'property'! What these lyrics say is, essentially, we worked honestly till we could afford someone else to do our work! Then we went and sat on the veranda! I call this the 'planter' mentality and outlook, and it is prevalent today in both major wings of the 'Republican' party today, that is, among both the 'religious' Right and the Randians as well. (I may call this mentality 'planter' but that's not to say it's confined to the South by any means; nor is it shared by all Southerners, not even all white Southerners and yes, it can and does cross racial lines!)
But perhaps the most destructive thing about this outlook is how it projects that attitude (I'll work only as long as I must without anyone working for me [sob]) onto the rest of us who actually want to do some kind of decent-paying, somehow-contributing sort of work! To quote a character in one of my favorite novels, "Is no good have too much time. Must have work." And those of us who either don't have, or have too little, regular work strive to 1) regularize what work we have and 2) at least try to create work for ourselves and others. The latter at least refers to work we'd want to do anyhow even if we had no further monetary worries!
Anyhow, their projection of that evil attitude onto the rest of us (and I suggest the riverboat gambler variation of that attitude is what now rules Wall Street) affects us in many tremendously pernicious ways: in the cutting of programs necessary to shore up working people and the middle class generally, in the giving of more, more and more to the greedy planters among us (including and perhaps especially the defense contractors) and indeed in the anti-Christian attitude towards the poor and struggling shown by the Mammonites of the Right. And by these signs they show us their culture, and the worst in it at that, trumps whatever faith they might really have by a long shot!!
It is we, and not they, who stand for the renewal, and the 'greening', of the real American Dream! We are the ones who wish to be neither masters nor slaves and we understand that needs to be true for all of us of every race and ethnicity or it becomes a vicious lie! So let's arm ourselves further, indeed with the shield of truth and the breastplate of (but never self-!) righteousness as we continue to organize, spread the words and otherwise prepare to engineer a progressive tsunami next year!