America, The Dream

I’ve been thinking a lot about The American Dream.

Not so much the “anyone can be anything if they work hard and put their mind to it” American Dream, but the idea of America itself – the nation the founding fathers imagined it might be, if given the chance.  A just nation, a free nation, one in which all men are created equal, with certain unalienable rights.

Both interpretations are, of course, fictions.  As a country we have never lived up to either, not for everyone.  And in some cases – the institutionalization of slavery, the genocide of native populations, the illegal internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, just to name a few – we as a nation have flagrantly betrayed the ideals of The Dream.

And yet The Dream persists.  People from all across the face of the earth still flock to our shores, on the promise of The Dream.

It persists, I think, because we as a nation refuse to give up on it.  Because we either want or need to believe that it can one day become reality.

Personally I don’t believe that will ever happen.  It certainly won’t happen in my lifetime.  But perhaps if we are always moving towards the ideals of The Dream – always striving to make this country more just, more equal for everyone who calls it home – maybe we’ll be all right in the end.

The United States of America is a country as flawed as its people, and those flaws – while not insurmountable – are great.

And yet for all their flaws, its people have the capacity for greatness, too.

Happy Fourth of July.