Living the Dream

Posted: January 21, 2013 in General
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Today we were given a great big Federal holiday in order to celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr.  His actual birthday was on the 15th of the month, but the government in its infinite wisdom deemed today to be the day we have off as a holiday.  I guess having the actual day off is just too unpredictable when it comes to the economy or the business of of running the country when it is not on a Monday or Friday.  One of the benefits of being in the Army in that regard is we get to take advantage of both of those days off most of the time, very convenient for me with the alignment of holidays indeed.

MLK was a leader in the civil rights movement in the 60’s, he paid the price for his beliefs with his life in April of 1968.  He was one of the most prolific  names in the not-so-civil movement for equality.  Among his many achievements is probably the most famous speech of the time period, his I Have a Dream speech delivered in Washington D.C. in 1963.  This speech spoke of the many things that should happen between the people of this nation and spoke of moving towards a country in which everyone would have the same opportunities, regardless of who they are.  Almost 50 years after that speech was delivered, the dreams King spoke about have regularly increased into the realm of the possible.  As we move further into the second decade of the 21st century for every advancement that has been made into equality between the races and the sexes, it seems the dream he spoke about has not evolved with the times.

I saw a comment by a friend today and it made me think about what he was saying and take a look around at the examples of answers to his question.  Hard working and seeking his educational goal of becoming a CPA, he posed the question of if he was alive in Kings time would he have the same opportunities as he does today.  He is possessed of 2 of the 3 criteria, that even in this day and age, which would make most of this country step back and rest on their laurels; he is a black male and gay.  Not that there is any reason to qualify him as anything other than an American looking to pursue his dream, the color of his skin, sexual orientation, nor any other “qualifier” really matters, he has a dream and he is going after it full steam.

So I thought about his question for a little while and here is my conclusion.  In King’s day he would have had the same opportunity to pursue his dream, it would have been in achieving it that he would have met the most resistance.  I truly believe that among the many benefits that have come out or the civil rights era is that in this day and age, the opportunities to achieve are there for everyone.  At worse, if met with resistance, there is law to fall back on, law that did not exist back then.  The only reason not to succeed in this day and age, in any endeavor, is the individual.

My friend is living the dream, he is living his dream.  He is putting all the hard work into it, and he is not afraid to take any challenges that come along with it, including those that may affect him personally.  Look at the country as a whole today and can we say the same thing?  Many of us have friends or acquaintances that are just like my friend; they will put in the work, pay their dues, and settle the debts that come along with the experience.  Again, I ask, can we look at the country around us and say the same for everyone we see?  I do not believe we can, and I think that those who do are again in the minority.

We live in an entitlement society.  Dr. King spoke about his dream, but it came with a set of coveralls on it.  His goals were never meant to be achieved with anything less than sweat equity, an investment of time and patience.  It was not meant as a means to have something for nothing.  The equality King wanted was for opportunity or opportunities, for everyone across the board.  Achievements were not meant as a means of getting something for nothing.  A hand extended by the government to lift someone up is not meant to be given for free and it should not come with a reliance born of the same fruits as addiction.  As we have moved ever closer to a society that has the same opportunities for every one in it, we have further subjugated whole generations of people by making them dependent upon the government.

In this dependence race has never been more equal than it is today. It effects people of every race, creed, sexual orientation and religious belief.  It is a frustrating irony that in the days before equality was considered the common law, that people worked hard for what they had.  Even in the days before black people could drink from the same water fountain as white people, it was not about what can you give me, it was about why can I not have the same opportunity as everyone else when I work just as hard, or harder than you do.  I do not think we can say the same thing today.

In some respects my friend will have just as hard a row to hoe as past generations did.  He will be a success and I fear he will be an anomaly in that regard.  As someone who is willing to put in the work to gain that success and pay his dues along the way, like many of us, his burden will become harder by assuming an ever growing burden being placed upon us by those who do not have the same drive.  By those who would rather rest on the laurels of those who started the dream rather than carry that dream forward.  Our country is becoming less a country of “haves and have nots” and becoming more of a country of “I wills and why should I’s”.  We are no longer a country of those who pay back and pay forward when it is so easy to get paid for doing nothing.

I love this country and I am not the least bit naive when it comes to the cycles of how it operates.  We have had low times before, we will have them again.  One can only hope that some folks in the up and coming younger generations, like my friend, will be leaders and what they give back to it will be example enough to help us rise up again.  We have some really unique opportunities; multi-cultural relationships are the norm these days, blended families are common and becoming even more so than any other time.  It is not uncommon for these to be presented as bad things, but as they move more towards the standard of living they will prove to be what makes changes in the country and how it thinks.

We are guaranteed, Life, Liberty and the PURSUIT of Happiness; there is no guarantee written anywhere that you will catch it, no matter how far you pursue it.  Just like our Constitution is a living document, our dreams and happiness should be living as well.  We should have the presence of mind to be able to adapt them.  After all, the only thing that can make you happy is ourselves.  If we let the obstacles and roadblocks we face affect that happiness then it is our own fault.  No one owes us anything, we are not entitled to anything.  We work for it and we pay for it.  Having the opportunity to do so is what King’s dream is really about, not equal rights through taxation and subsidization.  There is a a difference between having a dream and being a dreamer.  One has a realistic vision through fantasy the other has really fantastic visions.

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