On 60 Minutes last night, Leslie Stahl interviewed the incoming Speaker of the House, Representative John Boehner of Ohio. Several times during their obviously convivial chat, Representative Boehner said he had “been chasing the American Dream” all of his working life and, summing up his posture on the deficit said "Making sure that these kids have a shot at the American Dream like I did . . . is important."
The “American Dream” is often thought to be a cornerstone of the American experience, probably something that came across the Atlantic with the first Puritans. But in fact, it was an idea that we would recognize until James Truslow Adams, a historian, wrote a chapter called “The American Dream,” in his textbook, The Epic of America (1931). He wrote that “the American Dream” is:
“[A] dream of social order in which 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."
I’m not a New York Jets fan but I was hit between the ears by a metaphorical truth during their football game yesterday. As the Jets’ entered the third quarter trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-3, I was thinking about the president’s upcoming State of the Union speech. I heard an announcer put the Jets predicament into a perspective that is remarkably similar to the one Obama faces on Tuesday night. To wit: “You need to pick up the pace and score three touchdowns.”
Admittedly, three touchdowns for the Jets would have only resulted in a tie game. Yet, given the midterm “shellacking” back in November, a tie game on the political playing field now could result in another Obama victory in 2012. After all, the president is rising in the polls, and, while those polls mean next to nothing until next year and really not much of anything until after Labor Day in 2012, it’s still a good sign.
Our president handled the Tucson tragedy well, and if he has proven himself a better orator than progressive statesman, there is still audacious hope in my heart for a real leader to emerge from those impressive speeches. I am still awaiting, as I think we all are, a leader who boldly alters the political game and significantly improves the future of our country. He has less than two years to begin to accomplish that, by which I mean to do something other than move the ball between the forty yard lines in order to insure his reelection in Bill Clinton-like centrist fashion. So the question becomes: what should our president do?
Like most Americans who pay attention to world affairs, I stand in mediated awe of the protests in Egypt. Part of me cheers the protester’s rallying cry for democracy and the end of tyranny, and part of me worries about what happens next. As the co-author of a new book on the role of master narratives in Islamic extremism I am confident that calling for the end of Mubarak’s regime by labeling him the last Pharaoh has deep cultural resonance with Muslims, Christians, and Jews, but I know that this revolution has nothing to do with extremism of an Islamic kind. It is a protest, a movement, that should be understood as a political unity organized by an emerging story of hope rather than one organized by a political party or extremist ideology rooted in fear.
The Egyptian protester’s story could be called “the audacity of hope,” although that title has already been used and this revolution has nothing to do with Obama. It is the hope of a youthful population—the average age of an Egyptian is 24—for the better life they see elsewhere in the world, and the idea that it can also be theirs. It is the hope that springs from the promise of economic opportunity and equality more so than freedom, although at least some freedom from repression and corruption of the sort they have endured under a military dictatorship is certainly part of it. It is the hope that food will be more affordable, wages will be higher, and that promised reforms will bring an unprecedented ability to get ahead and to enjoy their lives. In this way, the “story” on the street is one of hope for the future. It is hope chanted in poetry, sung in popular songs, and cried out in slogans that echo other popular uprisings both at home and abroad.
I am these days frequently shocked and saddened by the lack of support for teachers, for public schools, and for colleges and college professors shown by the right wing of the Republican party, the Tea Party, and its coterie of governors bent on killing public education as we have known it. Readers of my blog posts know that about me.
But today I am unusually distressed and here’s why: This week saw the withdrawal of Dr. Timothy Chandler from a Provost’s job he had just won at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. The cause? A reference to Karl Marx in a published paper he wrote back in 1998. It seems that a local newspaper discharged investigative reporters to the library to dig up what they could find about Dr. Chandler and published a red-hot, red-baiting, no-holes-barred and mostly ridiculous account that claimed that anyone who quoted Marx was a Commie, and did we want that kind of person heading a local university?
I add only that Dr. Chandler is a well-regarded scholar in the field of Sport Science. You know, that field full of leftists bent on indoctrinating youth?
We gotta get out of this place!
If it’s the last thing we ever do …
We gotta get out of this place,
Cause girl there’s a better life … for me and you.
On Monday at 6 a.m. I awoke after a good night’s sleep (but no dreams) to my regimen of pills: one for nausea, two for pain, two more for bone marrow inflammation, one for blood sugar regulation, one for blood pressure regulation, and one in case I get heartburn, gas, or that “burning sensation.” San pricked my finger for a blood sugar reading. I took my temperature. Max oversaw the operation with his usual casual detachment.
I feel better than “okay.” I feel good!
We took Max for his morning walk around the neighborhood while the coffee brewed. It was already warm enough to bring on a good sweat and the accompanying clouds locked in an unpleasant humidity that added to the “dry heat” a layer of thick, wet discomfort. Max pooped. I bagged. San greeted an oldster whose name I’ve forgotten. We headed back indoors.