Sunday, January 15, 2012

American Dreamer

Article first published as Martin Luther King, Jr: American Dreamer on Blogcritics.

The essence of the American Dream can be captured in two words: upward mobility. On more than one occasion, I have written about how for those left behind by the Great Recession, the American Dream has become a dream deferred.

Research recently reported on in the New York Times suggests that the problem is deeper than I imagined:

"Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. 'Movin’ on up,' George Jefferson-style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion. But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe."

Perhaps it is time to wake up from the so-called American Dream. Perhaps it is time to dream bigger than the opportunity of upward mobility in the material sense. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of America's greatest sons, offered an alternative kind of dream. While "deeply rooted in the American dream" its branches stretched to the heavens:

"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

Dr. King's dream was about acquiring the kind of wealth that is invulnerable to market forces and the chances and changes of life. His dream was about becoming rich in love and justice in our personal lives and in the nation. His dream was not just about upward mobility but upward nobility.

This kind of wealth demands just as much urgent national debate as the material kind. In fact we will never truly achieve the later without the former. I believe this is what 'Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), Head of the Baha'i Faith from 1892-1921, meant when he made the following remarks while visiting the United States in 1912:

"Strive, therefore, to create love in the hearts in order that they may become glowing and radiant. When that love is shining, it will permeate other hearts even as this electric light illumines its surroundings. When the love of God is established, everything else will be realized. This is the true foundation of all economics... Manifest true economics to the people. Show what love is, what kindness is, what true severance is and generosity. This is the important thing for you to do... Economic questions are most interesting; but the power which moves, controls and attracts the hearts of men is the love of God."

King's life and death were an incarnation of this kind of deep love. As we commemorate the day set aside in his honor, let's consider the implications of his dream for the economic questions of this election year and beyond:

"This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy... Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

Image courtesy of Wikimedia, taken by the National Park Service and considered in the public domain


  1. Filthy racism @ US textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons (JW/A @ NYSE) (Hoboken, NJ)‏
    Chairman Peter Booth Wiley uses John Wiley & Sons to sell his Racism. Is he a "sovereign citizen", an extremist who defies government regulations? Read for yourself!
    Chairman Peter Booth Wiley is a worst-case racist who likes to use obscene expressions. He is also promoting race discriminations in an evil way - that is what sociologists refer to as intentional discrimination. His idea of proposing canned edible John Wiley & Sons textbooks for the African university markets will turn into a real can of worms for him.
    Listen to Chairman Peter Booth Wiley’s mud slinging, the racist of all things African: "With my great invention of canned edible learning products I have solved the African hunger and illiteracy problems for everyone not suffering from bulimia and learning disorders". The Chairman’s information leak shows that people in America think it's cool to be stupid.
    Chairman Peter Booth Wiley was sliding off his chair and tried hard to push himself back up again. His racial joke amused him so much that he burst into laughter and whisky sprayed out from his mouth. "I want to bring edible education tools to them Negroes". Chairman Peter Booth Wiley virulent attack speech is a repulsive, bad American dream come true! John Wiley & Sons itself is an uncivilized and racist assault to the very idea of academic freedom.
    Is Chairman Peter Booth Wiley going to run for political office like that other member of the Ku Klux Klan named David Dukes? The First Amendment to the American Constitution covers Chairman Peter Booth Wiley’s hate speech and makes him an honorary Ku Klux Klan member, where such racism flourishes. "I know another one", he announced with tears of laughter in his eyes. "Do you know the colonial law of the plantations in Africa?" The master-slave interpretations of Chairman Peter Booth Wiley take Africans to a new low point of reference. "Twenty-one on the ass to make the lazy nigger work again" he told for extra credit. After his reflection on race relations in America, Chairman Peter Booth Wiley shrieked and was shaken with laughter. It's the same old filthy dehumanizing business that has been at the core of John Wiley & Sons all along.
    John Wiley & Sons, Inc. might have to recall its contaminated edible canned education books.

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