07/05/12 - posted by jb
As of late, and today especially, I've been contemplating and lamenting "the American dream" which daily withdraws from the grasp and consciousness of many. Shortcake brought me home the most-recent Time magazine that notes how different were the visions of our ancestors who came here, during various times of turmoil and calamity, with their eyes bright and open. Clearly, what they were leaving was far worse than the unknown that awaited them on arrival. The possibility of freedom and prosperity must have been intoxicating and if not...just head a little further West. And sooner or later, we reached the Outsidelands where the waves of the Pacific crash against an Atlantic coastal mass of philosophies and feet only to get tangled in the undertow. We have run out of the West. And so we meet at Land's End awaiting the rocket's red glare of hope and promise to turn full-circle from the days of our founding fathers.

Can it be done in time? Hard to say, since it took 500 years to get us to where we are today. And where is that? I may have just watched a metaphor on ESPN: The annual Nathan's Coney Island hot dog eating contest.

In celebration of our great nation's independence, we challenge a group of young men and women to consume as many hot dogs as they can in 10 minutes. I watch this in a constant conflict of amazement and disgust: Something that must be seen to be believed. And as the crowd goes wild, the energy is explosive and palpable. Passions that could so easily be directed elsewhere for the more common good. We have made a holiday tradition of gross overconsumption in record time and a small group of contestants, promoters and sponsors make a living from this. Is this American free entrepreneurialism at its best or American greed and hubris at its worst? Dare we step back from the counter, take a look, give some thought and lend a hand...or is this metaphor the real cultural nightmare that now eats away ravenously at the American dream?

James Adams, who first coined this term in 1931, gives us hope: "If the American dream is to come true and to abide with us, it will, at bottom, depend on the people themselves." And isn't this what independence is really all about?

Happy 4th of July,


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