In Search of the American Dream
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.” Charles Dickens penned these ageless expressions in the opening chapter of “A Tale of Two Cities” as he described the contrasting social conditions leading up to the French Revolution. The words remain an eloquent description of the circumstances that breed unrest among men. Although penned in 1859, the words are as true today as they were millenniums ago, and will remain true for countless eons to come.
And so it is, mankind is forever doomed to the impulsive nature of personal pursuits and the consequences of blind ambition. What is good for one person may well be detrimental to another. The monetary riches blessed upon a few frequently become the albatross of the many. The religious convictions of a sect often turn into a scourge for those who believe a different way. The political objectives of a minority ultimately trump the optimistic aspirations of the multitudes. The concept of social justice is often mired by wealth, status, political beliefs, race or nationality. Equality is a concept as fleeting as yesterday’s sunrise, and as capricious as tomorrow’s weather conditions.
Yet in spite of it all, man continues to exist, occasionally thriving in unison but most often engaged in an incessant quest for supremacy. Trespass, manipulation, thievery, murder and war are the traits of society’s misfits while apathy, compliance, confusion and quiet surrender are the characteristics of the struggling masses. Given this wide divergence in moral standard and objectivity, is it any wonder the few soon come to dominate and rule the many?
None the less, hope is the constant that motivates the majority of us. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter if one is rich or poor, a corporate executive or a farm worker, a capitalist or a communist, a Christian or a Muslim, a genius or an idiot, a gifted athlete or an ill-fated paraplegic. The particular circumstances of our lives are always evolving; sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. As we ascend fate’s fickle ladder, we are pleased and jubilant with the apparent inevitability of our success. But, when the correction comes and forces us to take a step backward, we become depressed with the uncontrollable events of our demise. No matter the direction of our lives, hope remains the catalyst which propels our growth and resists our decline.
It is fortunate most of us get to drink from the cup of success for it prepares us for life’s fluctuations. It is the taste of this elusive nectar that becomes the basis for our future aspirations. Even in the face of absolute despair, it is the memory of the sweet flavor of achievement that energizes our depleted spirit and causes one to reach out for new and better goals. It is in this manner that we conquer our fears and slay our demons.
Today, we are beset with an array of problems which threaten our standard of living and hint at the ability of our country to survive. The financial implications of these dire tribulations affect every one in America. Some have lost homes as a result of the housing and mortgage crisis, while others have lost some, if not all, of their life savings in the ensuing stock market gyrations. Business failures, job losses and economic difficulties plague a fragile nation whose leaders seek solutions in the form of massive infusions of cash and credit to institutions deemed “too big to fail”. Our leaders thrust blindly in the dark as they naively preside over the destruction of the country.
But the malady continues as the daily reports reveal still another company, industry, bank or financial institution in harms way. In the midst of all this come revelations of fraud, deceit, moral turpitude and thievery in many of our nations’ largest corporations. There appears to be no end to this cycle of political, economic and social failure. One can only grimace in disbelief and anguish as the suspicion grows we may be at the edge of the abyss. The fear of total collapse becomes more palpable as the disease eats its way through the ethical fabric of our country.
Through it all, no one appears to be concerned with the root of the economic catastrophe. The rush is on for solutions to a problem that few wish to understand. In a pompous fever, our Congress has invested over 9 trillion dollars of our future prosperity in a scheme doomed to absolute failure. How can it possibly succeed given our government leaders abject refusal to understand and expose the origin of this debilitating cancer? And so it is that we may have lost paradise!
For a time, Americans enjoyed a level of prosperity, freedom and upward mobility that few countries in the history of humankind were able to obtain. True, there were inequities based on sex, national origin, race, and religion; but over time, the unfair practices were gradually diminished. And although America is far from perfect, it was considered more comparable to the fabled Garden of Eden than most other civilizations. Indeed, we became so emboldened by our lofty achievements that we coined the phrase, “the American dream”, to confidently announce our future prospects. It is helpful to savor what has been lost because it eases the effort necessary to overcome the adversity which now engulfs us. Residually, we have only the memories of a great society to remind us of how far we have fallen.
As we precede through the agonizing death throes of a failed nation, we should remember that botched democracies and disabled republics are often followed by the emergence of military dictatorships! This is a caveat which must serve as a wake up call to a declining nation. It is this ominous possibility which hopefully becomes the genesis of our salvation.
Of course, there is the price tag for our indifference which will memorialize our deterioration for generations to come. The unpaid debt of an empire that lost its way will be the curse of America’s unborn. The false promise of globalism will be a testament to the gullibility of those who failed to recognize how pervasive unbridled greed can be. Ultimately, individual freedom will go the way of economic freedom! Given the probability of this horrendous scenario, we must tenaciously cling to the hope that we can restore America to her former greatness.
The task of reclaiming America will not be easy! It will take the combined efforts of an energized citizenry to deliver us from the crisis. The vast majority of Americans know instinctively that the country is on the wrong track. We understand that America is drifting in every imaginable way. We all feel the financial pinch, the political instability, the social irresponsibility and the moral degradation; but we stand by mutely accepting the demise of America. Silence is passive acceptance of the wayward policies that have created our present circumstance. In the face of this great wall of silence, our government in their corrupt alliance with business is encouraged to continue with the looting of America!
What stops us from seizing the initiative? When millions lose their jobs as a result of a flawed trade agreement, why is there not a massive march on Washington, DC? When we are led into war by lies and duplicity, why don’t we hold the traitors accountable for their treachery and treason? When our savings and national wealth are eroded by the reprehensible practices of the Federal Reserve, why do we accept the logic of “too big to fail”? When immigration laws are ignored so as business can have access to cheap labor, why don’t Americans become infuriated? When we elect a new Congress to deal with these injustices, why do we accept their inaction? The answer to all these questions lies with our complacent acceptance of a dishonest economic and political system.
We have been financially pillaged by a system that rewards greed, manipulation and systematic plunder at the expense of morality, dedication and hard work. We must refuse to be the fools of the corporate and wealth elitist that have placed us on the path to devastation. The idea of outsourcing jobs to foreigners, who produce goods which are imported into the United States to be consumed and paid for by Americans, is self-destructive. If we continue to accept this crippled concept of economics, then we are either stupid, naïve or lazy and deserve the miserable future that awaits us!
We must recognize that hope and optimism, although critical to the psyche of success, are woefully insufficient to achieve the task at hand. We have to temper our optimism with reality and harden our hope with action if America is to survive. We should understand that the powers that be will not give up their stranglehold, nor will they negotiate in good faith. We must seize the government, throw out the officials, rewrite the statute books and declare our independence from the stifling forces that threaten the future of our nation.
Once we have taken America back from those who inadvertently seek to destroy her, we should pass democratic reforms and safeguards which will solve the present crisis and prevent similar problems in the future. The reforms will require legislation and may necessitate constitutional amendment. I will mention only a few of the critical changes which must be enacted.
Proper representation is the key to America’s rebirth. Legislative, executive and judicial officials must be controlled by laws that mandate they work at all times for the national interest. The laws would include standards of ethical, moral and physical performance which pledge primary allegiance to the citizens. The standards would be higher than those prescribed for other occupations and the penalties for violations would be more severe.
The economy must be rebuilt from the bottom up. The concept of advancing trillions of dollars to failed businesses is the ultimate “quid pro quo” for the fraudulent government/business alliance which only delays our financial day of reckoning. Decrees must be passed which provides for a return of living wage jobs to America. The government must amend the nefarious trade practices which have decimated our productive capacity and made us reliant on foreign countries. Economics 101 instructs a nation deteriorates when consumption exceeds production. Americans must begin to produce for their own needs if we are to, once again, become a viable economy.
These are just a few of the necessary reforms that can be instrumental in restoring that state of bliss called the American dream. I realize the solutions are simplistic, but I insist they are doable. The memory of America’s successful past provides the vision for a dynamic and prosperous future. It will take dedication, hard work and persistence to return our country to its former glory, but the reward will be well worth the effort.
I, like Charles Dickens, believe we are in the best of times and the worse of times, but I argue we are still able to choose our destiny. Personally, I select the route to the best of times and I will do all in my power to achieve that goal. However, all Americans must weigh in on this critical choice for it is left to each of us to determine our future as a country. Will Americans choose the best of times using astute diligence and taking strong action, or will they passively fall to the worse of times mired in complacency and self doubt? What will you choose?