As usual, I was listening to NPR this morning and something caught my attention. Apparently, the President is going to deliver a eulogy for the West Virginia miners who died in a coal mining “accident” recently in one of Massey’s mines. No, I’m not going to rant about coal mining. I love a coal mining engineer and think that all coal mining (whether digging tunnels in the ground or blowing off the tops of mountains) should end. I personally see nothing good about coal. That’s another post…..maybe. What caught my attention was that the President will say, “These miners lived -- as they died -- in pursuit of the American dream."
The American Dream: it is used as if it is an absolute. It is what unites our nation. It is what every single American lives their life in pursuit of. It is what ALL of us want and, if George Bush was right (not likely), why non-Americans hate us. What exactly IS The American Dream? Why is it that only American’s want this particular dream? Is it possible that there is really ONE thing – or specific group of things - that all Americans, exclusively, dream of, agree upon, desire? Or is it just another fairy tale like “happily ever after” or that every little girl has a Prince Charming for her or that life was idyllic for everyone in the 1950s (except for maybe women and people of color – but They don’t really count anyway, at least not for the guys in power who write/verbalize our collective history)?
In his eulogy, the President is reported to define the American Dream for the men who died as, "All the hard work. All the hardship. All the time spent underground. It was all for their families. For a car in the driveway. For a roof overhead. For a chance to give their kids opportunities they never knew; and enjoy retirement with their wives." Were all of them married? Did all of them even have a driveway? Did all of them have kids or even want to have kids? How many of them even thought they would live long enough to retire?
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and gross generalizations simply push one of my many buttons. Maybe I’m more about specifics instead of simplification. Do statements like these bother anyone else? Am I all alone in this? Maybe it’s just that I’m fat and, therefore, can more easily recognize that we don’t live in a “one size fits all” world. It isn’t just this American Dream idea, but all of the gross generalizations that permeate our world, from daily conversations with friends or co-workers to news reports. Phrases like ALL people, ALL Americans, ALL Republicans/Democrats/Tea Partiers/Environmentalists, ALL women/men/people of color, ALL Christians/Jews/Muslims, etc. say to me that specific groups can be categorized easily, which I don’t believe to be true. Of course, I could be wrong or completely off track and/or naïve (of which, I’ve been accused by the coal mining engineer). Then again, maybe it is simply genetic memory. Prey animals need to instantly recognize predators to avoid being eaten. Predators need to quickly recognize prey to avoid starvation. Maybe it all comes down to: eat or be eaten. If that is the case, can I opt out? I would prefer to believe that at least some of us have evolved past that. What I do know is that, as opposed to when I was in my 20s and knew Everything, now I have many more questions than answers.