I am writing this post on July 5, 2016 after spending part of Independence Day pondering the rather amorphous idea of the American Dream. What is it and what, if anything has happened to it?
It seems to me that the American Dream is a spiritual idea. It exists only in the hearts and minds of those Americans who believe in it. It is a beacon of hope, a Dream but has never been, and is not now, “the American Promise”. Nothing is promised but all is possible to those who believe and empower their belief with Love and wise use the Law of Mind Action.
It cannot and will not ever work for those who believe its “bunk” or think that the “system is rigged”. Only belief empowers the American Dream. Life is what we think it is. To put it plainly, we write the script of our own lives. It is done unto you as you believe. The American Dream is not for cynics but for believers.
The American Dream is the guiding ethos of American nationhood. It is the light that shines from the “shining city on the hill”. It is the torch in Lady Liberty’s lamp as she shines her light beside the Golden Door. It is that aura of endless possibility that America exports to the world. It is the magnet that draws millions, even now, to our shores and to new lives.
The Dream has never been a guarantee of anything. Nothing is promised but nothing is forbidden as long as its legal. There is no class system, no birth test, no way of speaking or thinking that can disqualify one from the American Dream.
There is a strong dose of Darwinism in The American Dream. No one will hand it to you, you must want it enough to seize it; to strive, strive again and never stop until you achieve your goal. That is as it should be. The joy of the American Dream is in its realization. It is never given; it is earned.
Success is bitter in the mouth if it is given. Only when you put it all on the line to get where you want to go; only when you push yourself to the limit can you really know who and what you are made of. Steel is not tempered by sugar but by fire. Reward is sweet only when earned. Trophies for participation have the taste of ashes in the mouth. A nice team photo should be the reward for participation. Trophies are for excellence and achievement.
Today in our political campaigns we hear talk of how it used to be. Small town America where a young man could walk down the road to the factory or the mill where his father worked, knock on the door and get a good paying union job, just like his Dad had for 30 years. They say that was the American Dream but I will tell you that has never been the American Dream. It was the economic facts of Industrial Age Post War America that produced this unique time and place, not the American Dream. No matter what the politicians promise us, that era is never coming back. Does that mean that the best is in our rear view mirror?
Not at all, as the old way fades, the new era of globalization and technology opens up opportunities unheard of 60 years ago. We hear about the evils of globalization but globalization cuts both ways. Do you know that almost every “foreign car” you can buy in this country is made by Americans in American factories by American workers; in those very same small towns we eulogized as the Golden Age.
Own a Toyota? Virtually all of them are made in Georgetown Kentucky, the Trucks in San Antonio, Texas. Many models of Mercedes are built in South Carolina, as are many BMW’s. VW builds Jettas and Passats in Tennessee. Hyundai is built in Montgomery, Alabama, Kia in Fort Valley, Georgia, Nissan in Smyrna, Tennessee, Nissan Trucks in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Like Hondas? So do I, they are all built in Ohio. Mazda in Flat Rock, Michigan. Your “foreign car” is putting millions of Americans to work in American jobs paying good wages and benefits.
The American Dream is about aspiration not envy. It is about striving, not complaining. It is about risking it all rather than playing it safe. It is Edison, Tesla, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Juan Sanchez, my good friend who realizes his American Dream by serving 25 years in the US Army defending our freedom in places none of us would ever wish to be.
It is Igor Dubcek who came from Serbia with nothing and now has the best cobbler shop in Sarasota. It is about untold millions born in poverty who opted for a life of achievement and prosperity rather than a life of envy, sadness and victimhood. It’s really about the choices we make, the thoughts we think and the words we speak.
Want the safe life? It is your right and privilege but if you choose the safe life of the union job at the mill, you have opted out of the maximum payoffs of the American Dream. Those who put their lives and fortune on the line reap the greatest rewards. New Americans understand this but by the 3rd generation many children of immigrants become entitled and believe that success is their due as Americans. The only thing we are entitled to is due process and equal justice under the law. The rest is up to each one of us.
The immigrant who came from Armenia with $5 in his pocket in 1892 was betting it all that he could make it. He won his bet, became a Physician after years of post graduate work and built a fine life in a totally different culture, language, and way of life than that which he had known. His name was Dr. Emmanuel Patlian and he was my grandfather. 310 Patlians, in all walks of life, are the fruit of his American Dream. He paid with his life, dying in a typhoid epidemic while treating the hundreds of sick and dying.
I am sure that Granddad Emmanuel would do it all over again, even if he could have known the heroic but tragic outcome. He loved America and was grateful to the last day of his life for the America that allowed him to escape death in the Armenian Genocide and to begin a fine new family in this magnificent land powered by the American Dream.
Is the American Dream dead or dying? Not at all, but our belief in it is fading as an entitlement mentality takes the place of the work ethic. It is fading as class envy takes the place of aspiration. We now scorn the wealthy rather than aspire to be like them.
Of all the emotions of which a human in capable, envy is perhaps the most corrosive to the heart mind and soul. It takes our focus from what we may accomplish and replaces it with anger, resentment and hatred of the accomplishments of others. Socialism is built on class envy and a consciousness of lack and limitation. Wisely regulated capitalism is the American Dream in action.
Wish you could be a multi-millionaire? You can if you have the wit, the courage and are fearless. Watch what they do, how they think and act; how they carry themselves and the risks they take with all that they own and then do that! The only thing that can defeat you is fear; that is the great enemy.
No one is born with special favor. We all have different abilities and talents but we are all creations of the Great Architect, the Ground of Being, the Great I AM. We are all magnificent because our lineage and essence is Divinity.
If we live large it is because we think, act and speak large. If we play it safe, play “small ball” then we will have a small life. No one does it to us, we choose our life by our thoughts words and actions. LIVE LIFE IN BIG LETTERS! That is the heart of the American Dream. Can you fail? Sure you can but better to try, try again than never know of what you are capable.
Until we are together again: think well, speak well, choose wisely and live well.
Rev. Dore’ Jacques Patlian, Sarasota, Florida