Sunday, February 27, 2011

Is the Declaration of Independence the most authentic statement of the American Dream?

[updated 5:5- CDT]

I can agree that the Declaration of Independence is one very influential and significant statement of the American Dream.

But...and here's the rub for tea partiers and strict constructionists of the Founders' "intent":

The DoI was written at a particular time and place by a particular person, and approved by a particular (very white, very privileged, very male, very Anglo-centric) group of people. It certainly is an articulate (and principled) statement of a particular view of the American Dream.

But it ain't (no way, Jose) the "final" or only such statement. Does it speak to the African-American experience? Does it speak to the experience of Native Americans? Does it speak to the experience of those who came here because of famine back home? Does it speak FOR all those who came here through Ellis Island, or those who believed that the Streets were paved of gold? Does it speak to those (Jews, Hmong, Croats, Somalis) who came after being persecuted or ethnic-cleansed? Does it speak to those who came here to escape the brutal conditions of third-world sweatshops (run by American corporations, largely)?

The American Dream is evolving...will ever evolve...and it is very different now than it once was. Sole-proprietor capitalism isn't quite the "pull-oneself-up-by-ones-bootstraps" phenomenon that it once was. And the disparity of wealth between the rich and the poor is bigger than ever.

So before you go defining an American Dream that reflects YOUR experience...remember that America is many things to many people and all of those conceptions have just as much right to exist.

Other statements of the American Dream:

Autobiography , Benjamin Franklin (Thx MSByrnes)
The Americans, Henry James
The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution
Up From Slavery, Booker T. Washington
The Souls of Black Folks, WEB DuBois
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
"Send me your tired, your poor..."
MLK, Jr's "I Have a Dream"
Dewey's Democracy and Education
"Throwing Stones," Grateful Dead

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