Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rethinking the American Dream :: A must read recommendation

On Wednesday, I wrote about the article "Rethinking the American Dream" in the April issue of Vanity Fair. I'm laying here this morning, continuing to read, with a fluorescent yellow "Fannie Mae" logo'd pen in hand, and noticed that I am essentially highlighting entire pages.

Needless to say, this is a "must read" article. By the way, I hate it when I say (or write) "needless to say". It's like I'm saying, "I know I don't need to say this, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway." Even though it's obvious that I DO need to say it. Strange thing this English language. Strangely beautiful.

Here's the excerpt that caused me to stop reading the article and write this post:

Still, the American Dream, in F.D.R.'s day, remained largely a set of deeply held ideals rather than a checklist of goals or entitlements. When Henry Luce published his famous essay "The American Century" in LIFE magazine in February 1941, he urged that the U.S. should no longer remain on the sidelines of World War II but use its might to promote this country's "love of freedom, a feeling for the equality of opportunity, a tradition of self-reliance and independence and also of cooperation." Luce was essentially proposing that the American Dream - more or less as Adams [James Truslow Adams, author of The Epic of America] had articulated it - serve as a global advertisement for our way of life, one to which non-democracies should be converted, whether by force or gentle coercion. (He was a missionary's son.)

I sit here, struck by the notion that we all know the American Dream goes beyond our materialistic tendencies and full blown desires - "the grim smell of want". It goes beyond "the better and fuller and richer life" ideal. It goes beyond equality and freedom and democracy. We, the American people, through our government, have used the American Dream as a gentle, subliminal weapon against governments and societies who choose not to ascribe to the American way of life. Actually, most times not so gentle and subliminal.

It's as if we collectively 'infer' to these nations and cultures that in two hundred years, we have found that our way is the best way of life, and we'd like for them to adopt it. Or else. And it's not just our government doing this on our behalf. It is also the profit motivated multi-national corporation, big oil, and all the other big resource rapists - whether those resources be natural or human. Talk about passive aggressive!

I would have to disagree with Obama in his assertions last week in Europe that Americans are not arrogant. Our apathy and ignorance of these truths are indicators of our arrogance. These truths - that we are fucking up our world with our way of thinking. Thinking that is overwhelmingly influenced by the capitalist profit motive.

I'm sorry, but this American Dream has evolved into a very bad thing over the past 100 years.

No. I take that back. I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry to be saying this. I'm not against the concept of the American Dream, I just think it's time we re-define what it is. Re-define it into something sustainable and healthy for man and beast and culture and nation and mother earth.

For thirty plus years now, my concern for this earth has not been the one billion of us living in the industrialized first world. It is the remaining five billion in the second and third worlds who aspire to the American way of life. A roof over their heads. Purified running water. Electricity. Schools. Books. Roads. Cars. Grocery stores. Wal-Marts. A Home Depot or a Lowe's every ten miles. Aquifer draining center-pivot irrigation. John Deere combine tractors. Petrochemical based fertilizers and pesticides. You get my drift.

If one billion of us have fucked things up in less than one hundred years, what do you think will happen as the other five billion start to come online as resource consumers in the next one hundred years. We are already hitting the upper limits of what the earth and her beautifully, perfectly balanced systems can handle.

The beautiful American Dream has been transformed into a nightmare. A nightmare for the entire planet.

Like it or not, we have become worldwide missionaries of the Dollar. Our God, the Dollar, who art in heaven. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in these United States of America. Give us this day our daily debts. And forgive us our trespasses in the pursuit of material wealth, as we forgive those who trespass against us in their own profit taking. And lead us not into the temptation to stray from the American way. But deliver us from an evil, un-American, un-patriotic life based on love and compassion and understanding. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. For ever and ever. Amen. Praise be to our God, the Dollar Almighty.

Happy Easter.

P.S. Don't worry about my blasphemy, or is it full blown sacrilege? Tomorrow, I'll be going to Easter services with the family at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio. Holy Communion should cleanse my soul. My God understands me.

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