Posts tagged ‘Barack Obama’

February 28, 2011

Deconstructing the American Dream

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The American Dream is a term that is very common in American culture. Turn on the news on any given night and you might see a politician or three relying on it to drum up support for their policies. On the other hand, it has also been used as a way to attack opponents or political rivals. For example, Mitt Romney, a prominent Republican in an upcoming book accuses current President Barack Obama of trying to stifle the American Dream. He claims that the president’s policies will lead to the death of the dream. But what exactly does this mean? What is the American Dream?

According to Arnold Schwarzneggar, the former governor of California, the American dream is that “a once scrawny boy from Austria could grow up to become governor of California and stand in Madison Square Garden to speak on behalf of the president of the United States”. Yet David Abrahansen felt that “the American Dream is in part, responsible for a great deal of crime and violence because people feel that the country owes them not only a living but a good living.” Obviously, this simple phrase has taken on a complex meaning. However, for the man who coined the phrase, it’s meaning was much simpler.

In his book, The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams wrote that the American dream is a

dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

Simply put, the American Dream was intended to mean equality and opportunity for all.

This idea that America is a land of opportunity often brings immigrants into the country. These people come with the hope that they can make something of themselves by taking advantage of the resources that are available. Instead, they find that this notion is just a dream.

Perhaps, it never existed the way that Adams pictured. For one, America is not a land of equality. Back when Mr. Adams was coming up with the phrase in 1931, Black Americans could not even vote. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Civil Rights Movement helped secure that right. And even in the 1960s, the dream still didn’t exist. Martin Luther King Jr., the most prominent Civil Rights activist of that era had 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'”. His use of “one day” implies that in those days, America had not risen to those heights.

That day never came in the 1960s and it still hasn’t come today. The American dream is a pipe dream. It doesn’t exist in the real world and the fact that it is pursued keeps the American public hostage. As Florence King once said; “people are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be that they’re all asleep at the switch. Consequently, we are living in the Age of Human Error.”

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February 22, 2011

Change is inevitable

Recently, change has been on my mind. Not the change that Barack Obama promised, but something a lot more personal to each of us. There is the time worn cliche that; “change is a good thing” yet I find that most people are afraid of change. Why is that? I think it’s because change for us represents something new, an X-factor of some sorts, an unknown. And fear of the unknown is one of the more common fears out there.

However, change should not be an unknown. Change is a reality and is consistent and a constant. Almost nothing is permanent but we like to pretend that our favorite things are and we make our decisions accordingly. Let’s apply this to the recent financial meltdown. It has been blamed on greed and rightfully so, but it is much more than that. A majority of the population did not imagine a world where things could be different. Tragically, we believed that the economy would always boom but the truth is where there is a boom a bust soon follows. What goes up will eventually come down. Had we been cognizant of this lesson, I believe we might have acted differently.

The world is changing. Democracy is spreading in places where we traditionally believed that it was impossible. The most amazing thing is that it is happening without direct American influence. We didn’t invade Tunisia or Egypt to set up democracy. Instead, these people are choosing it for themselves. In turn, this is sending shock waves throughout Africa and the Middle East. It is also forcing countries in the West to re-evaluate their foreign policies.

This is of course an oversimplification of a much more complex situation but remains a valid point. We need to embrace change and include it in our planning. Relationships evolve, the Stock Market goes up and down, jobs are gained and lost, and above all opinions change. Approach life with an open mind, challenge your assumptions constantly and do not be afraid to stretch yourself. Change is inevitable, and that is a good thing.

February 17, 2011

Learning to Listen

xcd.com via Google

One of the best things you can do for anyone is to listen to them. By so doing, you are affirming them, confirming that they are alive and that they do exist. Think about it. Without a voice, you do not leave a mark or a dent. Our voices are the ripples that we make in the pond of humanity. And with no one listening, these ripples go unseen. Yet, we do not listen to others. Taking things a step further, we do not know how to listen. There is a lot of vitriol, angst and pain around the world today and I believe that what we need are more ears.

It begins by asking the right questions and then doing more than just hearing an answer. You see, listening is more than just hearing what someone has to say. Listening is active while hearing is passive. To hear what a person says, all you have to do is receive the sound waves out of their mouth. Listening on the other hand, involves dropping all of your preconceived notions and ideas, and engaging a person with the goal of understanding them. Dropping our own perceptions, notions and ideas is the hardest part. Every time we talk to people, their voice is distorted by the soundtrack we have playing in our heads. To listen we have to turn off our music or take off our headphones and then we can hear the speaker’s song. When we do this, then they feel like they exist and are understood.This is most important when the person doing the talking is underrepresented in society. These are the people whose voices are the faintest. To continue with the analogy of music, their songs are almost inaudible and we need to turn up the volume.

But the underrepresented are not the only ones that should be listened to. Everyone should be listened to. Questions like; “How do you feel about…….?” or “Why did you do what you did…..” are very powerful. They give the person a chance to respond and be heard. We don’t have to agree with them, consensus can almost never be reached, but compromise can be achieved and that is more than enough. For example, I was in favor of the Health Care Bill that President Barack Obama’s administration passed. To me it was a no brainer that we needed a way to stop “pre-existing conditions” from being a part of Health Care conditions. But then I heard a parent of one of my students talk about the issue. He was losing a lot of work because of the new law and his family was being negatively impacted. I listened to him, not so I could formulate a response but to understand his story. He didn’t exactly cause me to change my stance but he did force me to re-examine how I saw things. Now when I meet someone who is anti Obamacare, I don’t automatically get defensive. I just wonder where they are coming from because of my new understanding. I probably won’t ever reach a consensus with them but I can definitely strike a compromise.

The current protests in Tunisia, Egypt, etc., present a wonderful opportunity for those of us in the United States. The people there want to be free from tyranny and we can definitely relate to that. But we haven’t always done that. According to Nicholas Kristoff in this article, American Foreign Policy has always seemed to revolve around our own selfish interests. We’ve made alliances with dictators in exchange for stability in the Middle East. This has caused us to appear to be anti democracy in the region. It was also responsible for the current Administration’s hesitancy to jump into the fray during the protest in Egypt. However, we can learn from this experience by listening to the people. Some of the Egyptian demonstrators kept saying that they wanted “freedom like there was in America”. This is great news for American interests and I think the Egyptians will work with us as long as we allow them to direct their country’s future. People will always tell you what they want and sometimes what they need if you’re listening.

August 22, 2010

The “N” Word and Dr. Laura

Earlier this week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced that she will not be renewing her contract. This means that she is effectively ending her radio show. Dr. Laura, as she is more famously known, said that she is ending her show so as to regain her First Amendment rights. This comes on the heels of an incident two weeks ago, where she used the n-word 11 times in a five minute span. A black woman who was involved in an interracial marriage, called her for advice on how to deal with the occasional use of the word by her husband’s relatives. Instead, Dr. Laura went off on her own personal tangent.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not listen to Dr. Laura. Therefore I believe that this disqualifies me from making general statements on whether she is racist or not. What I am going to do is respond to some of the issues she raised.

Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.

I agree that this is very confusing. The black community is not united on how to deal with this word. There are people like me who will not use it but I have friends who do use it. A lot of comedians and rappers use it for various reasons. Some feel that by using it, they’re taking what was a negative and turning it into a positive. This is something we’re still wrestling with. Dr. Laura is allowed to comment on this but could have done so without uttering the offending word. It is not her place to figure out how black people should deal with the n-word.

My dear, the point I am trying to make … we’ve got a black man as president and we’ve got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that’s hilarious.

The premise here is very faulty. The issue of racism has nothing to do with a black president and is definitely not hilarious. Dr. Laura here is showing a lack of understanding that considering her job, scares me a little. She should have known better but frankly, she doesn’t. To be fair, this train of thought did not originate from her. I’ve seen it used elsewhere and it was also wrong then.

It really is simple Dr. Laura, black people want respect just like everybody else. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. When you use that word the way you did, you aren’t being respectful.

September 14, 2008

Where do the people fit in all this?

First of all I would like to thank rawdawgbuffalo for his unwavering support and kindness. You are a good man. And a shout out to Tera for the love. Your words were very encouraging to me and it is always refreshing to have people rooting for you.

Let me now stress that it is late and I should either be in bed or be at a club or something. Afterall, I am a 20 something and this is Saturday night/ Sunday morning. I shouldn’t even be tackling a serious subject such as this one but I have been bouncing it around in my head and I am sick of procastinating. Like I said in my last blog, I had two people recently join me in my vision and we are working together to bring it to life. As we were thinking of new ideas and what direction to go, one of them posed this question to me randomly and seemingly off topic; “what are your thoughts on McCain and VP running mate?”

Well, I haven’t given her my answer yet. You see, I am sick of this whole election thing. I am sick of the big circus around the two parties. I am sick of the drama, the theatrics, the high wire act, the lies, the attack Ads and the politics. Truth be told, I was sick of it as early as the Democratic Primaries. I got fed up as I watched Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duke it out. It became about them and less about what America needed. The same holds true for John McCain and his pick of Sarah Palin. He didn’t pick Palin because she was capable. He didn’t pick Palin because he thought she’d make a good Vice President, he picked Palin because he wanted to win an election. I find all of it disgusting.

Lost in all of this is the voice of the people. Lost in all of the hoopla is the fact that we live in a country that is supposed to be democratic. Government of the People for the People and by the people. Do we have the ear of Washington? Obama can you hear the frustration? McCain can you see the despair? Do you understand that there are hardworking families out here, who work three or four jobs just to survive on the barest of minimums. Can you feel that our system of education is broken and that lots of students continue to slip through the cracks? Do you know that important programs are being cut from our schools to divert funds to other things?

I could go on and on but these are some of the issues that are important to me. This is why I am doing what I am doing. I am tired of waiting on the system to realize that it is decaying from the inside. While they try to figure and sort out who the next president is going to be, I am going to spend my time taking on these tough questions. I don’t know that I can ever solve them but I am not going to just ignore them. For one, I know I am doing the right thing and I also know that I am not alone. I hope the next president will take it back to the basics and what matters; Americans. Meanwhile, wake me up when they get to the important stuff.

May 1, 2008

Creating a straw man out of Reverend Wright

Much has been made out of the fact that Reverend Jeremiah Wright is Barack Obama’s ex pastor or current pastor. Who knows? Apparently your pastor isn’t allowed to have his own opinions if you are running for president since he might be a political liability.

Listen, I don’t agree with Reverend Wright or his opinions. But he has his right to express them. Its called a freedom of speech. It shouldn’t affect Obama’s qualifications to be president. Why is there such a double standard in this country? I am not going to go into George W. Bush’s history but suffice to say that he was friends with shadier men than Reverend Wright.

The issue here isn’t about Reverend Wright’s politics at all. Make no mistake about it, this is about Barack Obama’s candidacy. Obama has been hitting a note with a lot of people with his message of change and being a Washington outsider. He hasn’t been squeaky clean but none of the mud slinging has stuck so far. So what to do?

The old straw man tactic. The straw man argument is when a person can’t win a debate against you so they set up a weaker version of your stance and then try to attack it. In other words, they set up a straw man version of your argument and then attack the straw man. Reverend Wright has become Obama’s straw man. Of course, Obama’s opponents know that he doesn’t believe in the same ideas as Reverend Wright but maybe just maybe they can use him to create doubts about Obama. So far, they have been accomplishing just that.

Meanwhile, Reverend Wright isn’t helping the cause at all. He insists that he isn’t running for president. This is true so he should help Obama out by being quiet and staying low for now. But he refuses to stop. He seems to be enjoying the limelight. I have nothing against him but I just feel that he should help his friend and avoid controversy. For now.

January 28, 2008

Obama wins South Carolina and other thoughts…

This particular democratic race is turning out to be something crazier than I imagined. I for one would never have thought it would shake out the way it has been thus far. Incase you didn’t know, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton and John Edwards to win the state of South Carolina.

What is surprising isn’t so much that he won, but that he won by such a large margin. Some interesting tidbits;

Obama garnered 80% of the African American vote in South Carolina and 50% amongst young people.

This continues a trend that has been established early thus far; Obama appeals to the youth. While the media, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards continue to see Obama as a capable black man, they are missing out on the main point. There is a rebellion, a revolution coming. The Youth are saying: hey we don’t like the way things have been to this point and we are going to make a change.

Obama understands that. This is why you’ll see him say “change”, “change”, “change” as many times as he can in every speech he makes. Clinton and Edwards should start to get it or they don’t stand a chance. Just a word of advice to the wise.

So if you hadn’t heard by now, Dana Jacobson was recently suspended by ESPN and just got reinstated.

Apparently Ms. Jacobson of ESPN’s “First Take”, went too far at a roast for Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (of Mike and Mike fame) and said some things that were inappropriate about Notre Dame, Touchdown Jesus and Jesus himself.

I have searched around but I can’t seem to find any information on what she actually said. If anyone knows, please do share. Here is what I have to say though. It is a pity. I like Dana Jacobson. I thought we should have learned by now that alcohol and microphones do not mix well. Not at Karaoke bars and obviously not at celebrity roasts.