Sunday, January 18, 2009

We are One America

The upcoming inauguration has me thinking a lot about the dreams of happiness we have for our own lives and the efforts we make along the way to realizing those dreams.

I also have been thinking about the manner in which we treat others to get where we want to go.

Are our actions guided by love and hope or are they guided by a sense of fear and resented obligation?

I think it has to do with the nagging sense that we, as humans, are about to witness some major changes in our world as we know it. We are living in a moment of history and have means to record our place in that history as a country in ways never possible before.

I can only write about the wonder and awe I feel when I see our new President--a man who inspires people he doesn't even know to want to be better people. Inspires them to be part of their neighborhoods and communities because that's how we are supposed to be.

This is not hero worship as some in the burgeoning wingnutteries would like to believe. Those who cannot see the goodness in Obama are choosing to be blind. Are shirking any responsibility to join together with the rest of America in fixing our limping country. There's a lot of haters out there. And their speeches or rants usually start with blame or an excuse. It's never about taking personal responsibility.

As a (sometimes) reluctant optimist, I often am disappointed by what I see when I take a look out into the world. I see people hating and hurting each other over fear. Fear that comes from ignorance. Fear that comes from self-loathing. Fear that comes from not wanting to change or to be kind because that might somehow take something away from them. Fear that their "deciders" are no longer there to make their decisions for them. Fear that comes from a sense of powerlessness.

I see people trying to put others into neat boxes to keep their sense of order:

  • Democrat/Republican
  • Liberal/Conservative
  • Us/Them
  • American/Un-American
  • Smart/Stupid
  • Pro-intellectual/Anti-Intellectual
  • Capitalist/Socialist
  • Friend/Foe
  • Pro-Choice/Pro-Life
  • Pro Gun/Pro Gun-Regulation
  • Religious/Athiest
  • Christian/Non-Christian
  • Blue State/Red State
Those dichotomies never get us very far. One needs look only to history to see the danger of such binaries and the atrocities committed in the desire to make one side the "right" side.

The more I think on it, the more I realize: there's only one way we will get our collective asses through the reconstruction of America.


Perhaps instead of focusing on the things that divide us, the things that make us individuals, we should focus instead on the things we ALL share.

We need to reconceive the collective American Dream.

Here's some of my thoughts (and I welcome any responses regardless of agreement or disagreement).

The American Dream is about living life:
  • With a sense of purpose
  • Free from the fear of oppression
  • With the sense of responsibility to your fellow human beings.
  • As an example to others of tolerance, kindness, and charity.
The American Dream is about everyone--not just a select few.

I start this inauguration week with a confession and a pledge.

I admit, I was not as vocal or as participatory in my government as I should have been between 2001-2007. In some real sense, the attacks on our country fueled my fear that life was way beyond my control. That I was just one person in a sea of billions who had no power to change anything. So my sense of responsibility atrophied. I focused solely on my own personal dreams.

I lost hope in the bigger picture. I thought that every person was out only for him/herself.

I could never quite fit into that mold, no matter how hard I tried.

I noticed that kindness and compassion were things that were ridiculed. In the class I teach, students have confessed they see kindness as a sign of weakness. To be polite is to be beneath.


I hear this type of idea thrown out by the voices of dissent. "Bleeding heart" is spat an insult.

I care about you; each and every one. And that doesn't make me weak, or stupid, or liberal.

It makes me human. Just like you.

And I pledge starting this moment, to live up to the potential that Obama sees in me, in all of us.

It's not about just him. He's one person. But so am I. So are you. And together, we are one America.


Sidhe January 18, 2009 at 12:06 PM  


I like your vision of the American Dream. I'm going to go out and do something nice today (after putting someone into an un-American box).


True Blue Texan January 18, 2009 at 2:40 PM  

Well said.

I went online today using a tool posted by another blogger to look for volunteer opportunities for tomorrow. I saw one location that said all their volunteer time slots were full. How awesome is that? My daughter and I are donating blood at the Central Texas Blood Bank. We're Type O. They like us.

This is what Obama can do with the simple announcement that he and his family will be volunteering on MLK day. It's this kind of reaction that scares some people. Not because they find the idea of volunteering inherently evil but because they fear the actions of ordinary people to emulate one man's actions. If he can get us to unite for a day by helping our communities; what will he be able to inspire us to do that might change the world permanently?

skyewriter January 18, 2009 at 3:24 PM  

I think the naysayers are in for the shock of their lives.

People are ready for change, hungry for it even.

The time is ripe.

Aliceson January 18, 2009 at 6:45 PM  

Tuesday can't come soon enough!

willpen January 18, 2009 at 8:50 PM  

Fear is can be so debilitating. People cling to it because it is an easy way out. Change is what scares these people. I have seen the ugly side of what fear can do to people.

I was watching the concert at the Lincoln Memorial today and at one point I found myself tearing up. I was so moved by the energy that was being created by the throngs of people that were there to take part in this celebration.

We are indeed experiencing history. We are living it and it feels so damn good.

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