I cannot explain it, but I woke up in a cynicism-free mood. I have no clue at all how long this feeling is going to last, but I figured I should strike while the iron is hot. I think I’m as guilty as anyone out there of being really upset and angry about how our country has turned out. We were born out of the most noble of intent — true and lasting freedom for all who are born here — and yet so much of that nobility hasn’t been extended to those not in the elite, ruling class. In the years following World War II, were steadily creeping towards that point though — not that we’d have had everyone in America with identical bank accounts, but with identical opportunities to fill those accounts.
Then Reganomics happened in reaction to the economic instability of the 1970’s and we’ve been on the direct path to plutocracy ever since. The truth is that this country was founded by the rich, white ruling elite and they’ve always had a little bit of a leg-up on the rest of us. But we have climbed that mountain before, we have been in a position if not exactly the same, at least it was very similar to what we’re experiencing now. To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite social movements, it gets better. Or at least, it has in the past — and I think we’ll get there again if we can manage to not wipe each other off the planet in the first place. The American Dream isn’t dead; it’s just a mythological entity like Santa Claus or Fiscally Responsible Republicans. That doesn’t mean we can’t still make that “American Dream” a reality, and it doesn’t mean we can’t do it in our lifetimes.
So as a service to everyone — myself most definitely included, here are 5 Things to Cure Your Cynicism About The American Dream.
#5. We’ve Been Through This Shit Before, Many Times
Income inequality is staggering right now. Corporate America and Wall Street are very obviously walking all over the American people and our politicians seem to be frozen in place. Though the specifics may be different, we have been here before. Teddy Roosevelt rose to prominence as a Republican willing to take on big business. He was the first one to break-up the monopolies and wrest at least some control over the economy and the government back to the people. Harry Truman dealt with a “Do-Nothing” congress. Lincoln became president and immediately had to tackle a crumbling union and the most daunting and important social issue of our nation’s history.
Whether it’s the fight for LGBT rights, or the fight to keep the control over their bodies and futures that women won in the sixties and seventies, we’ve been here before. If we elect the right people, if we don’t accept the status quo, we can fix the broken machinations of our way of life again. The question as always though is “Do we want to?” That’s a question each person has to answer for themselves, but when enough people answer in the affirmative, that’s when people like Liz Warren and Bernie Sanders get elected. It’s not illegal for us to vote a few more people into office like them, and until they do make that illegal, we’re only shooting ourselves in the foot not doing so.
#4. We Still Outnumber Them
The plain and simple math is in our favor. I’m not stating that we outnumber them and therefore armed revolt is necessary and okay. Don’t be stupid. I’m suggesting that there are about 600 people in Congress, two people in the White House and nine people on the Supreme Court, and about 300 million of us total. If we don’t like the current gaggle of morons on the Hill, we have literally hundreds of millions of people to choose from. The moment we wake-up and realize that, we can run whomever we want for office, and before you blast me with “Corporate Sponsored Election” snottiness, remember that we’re playing in a cynicism-free zone, and guess what? We still outnumber Corporate America. What happens to their revenue streams if they piss off enough of us to stop using their products and services? How much longer we as American consumers and voters abdicate our rightful place as the true and final arbiters of what we find acceptable both in our government and on Wall Street will determine how much longer Corporate America’s stranglehold on our government lasts.
#3. Human Beings Aren’t Robots
I think sometimes we look at Washington from the outside and just figure “Welp, Democrats do as Democrats are programmed and Republicans do as Republicans are programmed.” The last time I checked though, we don’t have hard drives; we have brains. We don’t have CPUs, we have minds that can think all on their own. Not every politician we elect will be corrupted by the system if we elect the right people. Yes, I realize what a monumental effort just that notion implies, but if we’re not willing to at least exert the effort it takes to elect the people we need in power, then fuck us anyway, we don’t deserve any better than that our apathy and disengagement gets us. Even the people who are in power right now can be made to see the light if we just make our voices heard. They cannot be deaf to tens or hundreds of millions of people, but the first step is raising your voice. If we have some automatons in our government we need to push them out. The bottom line is that it starts with us, the voters, not the machine, not the system.
If you don’t believe that a few million people can make a big difference in American politics — see the National Rifle Association and get back to me.
#2. Ed Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning
Whether or not you think Snowden is an egomaniac, you can’t deny he’s already made an impact on society. Sure, nothing he revealed was any huge shocking secret, unless you consider just having all our worst thoughts about government overreach confirmed as shocking; I don’t. Regardless though, there are more people like Snowden, like Bradley Manning, and like Daniel Ellsberg who understand that holding your government accountable to the people is a really dangerous job to walk away from. Yet, that’s what so many Americans have done. We slept-walked through the start of the War on Terror and now we have a so-called liberal president in power who has amplified some truly horrible decisions the Cheney Administration made about foreign policy.
Privacy and government overreach is actually a subject that liberals and conservatives agree on because privacy is a cherished American value. Maybe if we stopped fighting with each other for ten minutes and worked together on the stuff we actually agree on we could get some of our pre-9/11 lifestyle back. The point is that people out there still care, and as long as there are people out there that still care, information will come to light, and we will at least be given the tools with which to reform our government where it’s most needed, assuming we pick those tools up of course.
#1. The Constitution Isn’t Carved in Stone
Contrary to popular belief our Constitution wasn’t written by the same people who wrote the Bible. Further contrary to that belief, the men who did write that document are not demigods, capable of far more cogent and intelligent thought than anyone alive today. I get told time and again when I suggest that we overhaul this 237-year-old legal prose that we’re not capable of it anymore. I get told this by otherwise smart people who should get that we’ve come quite a long way in the last two centuries and that we’d be stupid to cling to technological or medical practices of the time. I get told this by people who are not racists and hate that slavery existed in this country, and by people who are all for expanding civil rights to the LGBT community.
The bottom line? We’re too fucking scared as a culture to take on the admittedly monumental task of revising our Constitution. But what other legally-binding document would we treat with so much reverence that we don’t even feel worthy to touch? Jefferson himself thought the Constitution should be re-written in its entirety every twenty years because he understood just how much society can change in two decades alone. We can fix what’s broken. We can fix the Second Amendment and clarify it without robbing people of their guns. We can define our First Amendment to make racial, sexual or gender discrimination illegal. All of these things are possible as soon as we realize that Earth really does truly belong to the living generation, and that we are indeed that generation.