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The American Dream: Near Death or Not Yet Born?

Robin Alexander

Posted on July 13, 2018 12:54

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How to characterize our noble experiment: the land of opportunity; liberty and justice for all; all men are created equal? That one has been a bedrock concept since Thomas Jefferson wrote it into the Declaration. Unfortunately, these are mostly myths. So what does that make the American dream? Is it on its way out, or was it never really born in the first place?

I used to get teary-eyed at inaugurations. Someone inevitably declared with appropriate gravity, “We have witnessed the transfer of the greatest power on earth without the firing of a single shot.” That sounded as impressive as couples gracefully dancing a genteel minuet.

Now I know that Jefferson was literally referring only to white land-owning men. No need to recount our grim civil rights history. Just this morning, an MSNBC guest lamented that we no longer “spread democracy” -- one of our most popular fairy tales (we’ll overthrow democracy at the drop of a CIA hat if it suits us -- Iran, 1953).

So where are we? Interestingly, this is a popular topic.

Chris Hedges predicts the imminent demise of the American empire, comparing us to a declining Rome, “dominated by a bloated military and corrupt oligarchy.” He blames bankers, industrialists, journalists, politicians, intelligence operatives, professors -- everyone with power -- for bankrupting us, poisoning us, and stealing all they can. “There is a familiar checklist of extinction,” he says. “We are ticking off every item.” 

While Hedges has us near death, an Intercept book reviewer places us at “decrepit late-middle age,” citing “decaying institutions and populist demagoguery”. The book under review, happily titled How Democracy Ends, foretells a slow hollowing out of institutions until they are completely ineffective and meaningless. The body politic exists in a state of democratic dementia, passive witness to an elaborate charade.

The Atlantic presents two more viewpoints, American history as: A spiral where the barbaric treatment of immigrants and minorities is endlessly repeated -- we are trapped, ageless, in a cruel Groundhog Day; AND alternatively, an “arc of progress” rooted in the Constitution, Benjamin Button moving steadily toward a flowering youth.

Then there’s this Facebook post: “What if all the mothers who came before us, who survived genocide and occupation, slavery and xenophobia, political oppression and sexual assault, are standing behind us now, whispering in our ear: You are brave? What if this is our Great Contraction before we birth a new future?” Our grand philosophy fights to be born rather than aborted, seriously needing our help. 

Finally, Langston Hughes’ heartbreaking/breathtaking poem which holds up a mirror to the American dream, for our myths and fairy tales are our dreams. The promise embedded therein has always defined the best of America, despite the “rot and ruin” Hughes experienced. And even though he was not included in it, Hughes longs for the dream’s redemption, with the unspoken yearning “maybe this time.” That’s how powerful it is.                                               

Let America be America again

Let it be the dream it used to be …

America never was America to me.

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem …

The mountains and the endless plain …

And make America again!

 

(You see the irony of the last line.)

Now, since time may be running out, we must awaken and breathe real life into this dream.

Robin Alexander

Posted on July 13, 2018 12:54

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by skykingdomgames Hi Anthony - Yes, we have had that comparison made before. The grid is absolutely nessecary for the...

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