It’s a subtlety that’s easy to miss.
In fact, I don’t even think some people of color (of a certain generation) see it. It has taken years for me to see it. But Gladys Knight totally brought it to light for me.
The American Dream has always been something we talk about as a good thing, in this country. I always thought it was a good thing. I wrote a whole song about it. Now granted, I put a bit of a dark spin on it and I examined the idea that millions of people never achieved (or were ever going to) achieve the dream, leaving the listener to draw their own conclusions about said dream. Still, I think a country with its own “dream” is a pretty good thing. It’s a miraculous thing.
For years – centuries, in fact – the idea of “equality” was the idea that first: the dream was good. It was righteous. It was worth the time to pursue and it wasn’t a sin. We had a collective, social agreement that having opportunity and freedom and access, was the goal. We all agreed that it was not only fine, but encouraged, to chase your dreams and fly as high and as far as your talent and ambition would take you. There was a cultural consensus on this.
Hometown Boy Makes Good. That was the headline everyone was striving for.
Second: The Civil Rights movement was a movement to allow people of ALL races to participate in that promise; that dream. Martin Luther King Jr talked about it in terms of an un-cashed check they had showed up on the capital steps to cash. And the idea was to allow little boys who don’t look like me, the exact same opportunities as little boys who do look like me.
And you know what? In a lot of ways that check got cashed. The society did soften towards race and move and shift in its thinking and make allowances for “other” and promote the unlikely and celebrate the unusual and reward the unrewarded. America thought that its own dream was a good idea and that that dream simply needed to extend its promise to everyone, and all would be well.
A lot of people still think that’s what’s going on. I still thought it …until recently.
Listening to Gladys Knight talk about what an honor it was for her to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, made the light bulb go off in my head. She still thinks about it the way I’ve always thought about it. She still sees America as a good thing. She still sees our national idea as something to aspire to. She still believes she has risen to something as an African America woman, being asked to sing on the biggest stage in the world. See, that was her struggle. Growing up, she wanted the same opportunities as Jo Stafford or Peggy Lee. She wanted to fully participate in the dream and not have to walk in through the service entrance. She wanted the same room service everyone else got. She wanted to be judged on her talent first, not her color.
So for her, singing at the Super Bowl means something has changed for the better. The fact that she gets driven to the game in the same limo they would send for Madonna (which …don’t get me started on how THAT National Anthem would sound) means we’ve gained ground and gotten closer to the dream Dr. King so eloquently talked about.
Most of us see that and cheer. Because we are still buying into idea number one: that America (and its dream) is basically good.
But the new breed of civil rights warriors are showing their hand. Many of those in the white dresses at the recent SOTU address actually reject idea number one. And that’s where the fundamental disconnect is.
Howard Shultz is reeling in confusion at the fact that he’s being destroyed for having achieved something. His company insured my special needs daughter for several years, by my wife only working there 20 hours a week. God bless him. He found solutions. And if he could talk people into paying 7 bucks for coffee, then why shouldn’t he enjoy the success? But THAT is where the new struggle is: identifying the core of the American Dream as a basic sin. And quite frankly …it’s terrifying.
Gladys Knight is of an age of people who would see her success as a blessing and a wonder. She sees the Super Bowl performance as something to aspire to. But the kids today, who espouse the new piety of collectivism and reject the very notion of acquiring wealth, see her as a relic from another time. They see singing at the Super Bowl as an opportunity to make a statement against the country. And if she didn’t use it as such, she was somehow betraying something. For her, it was a realization of the promised dream. For them, it was a platform to point out the absurdity of the dream.
See, it’s not about dreams, anymore. It’s about managing the herd. Socialists always remove the art and wonder from everything. Nothing great for any one person. Mediocre everything for everybody. That’s the new civil rights.
That’s the kind of thinking that will make you not stand up and cheer for record unemployment or higher GDP or people getting off food stamps. Because it means someone, somewhere is achieving. And that could lead to them soaring. And we simply cannot have that.
Progressives talk about rooting for the underdog and trying to give the downtrodden a hand up. Well, just know that if you’re the underdog, they absolutely cheer you on to succeed. But, God help you if you actually do.
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