Monday, May 17, 2010

The American Dream - Still Alive?

The city of New York bears a special connection to that ambiguous yet powerful concept called the American Dream. What is it? Millions of immigrants have arrived in New York, more than most other cities on our continent. They arrived here to begin a new life. For what were they looking? New York University lies in the heart of the city; an NYU alumnus writes:

People don't dream all their lives of escaping the hellish countries they live in and pay their life savings to underworld types for the privilege of being locked up in a freezing, filthy, stinking container ship and hauled like cargo for weeks until they finally arrive in

cities like Moscow, or Beijing, or Baghdad, or Kabul. No, they sacrifice to get to America, and often the point of entry is New York. Why? Because America stands for, or at least has until now stood for, the concept that drives much of humanity: freedom. What is that concept:

Freedom was the ideas that inspired our Founders, that moved them to break the free of an oppressive regime and envision a better system of government. The framers of our Constitution were determined to establish a governmental structure that would ensure freedom. They understood that freedom was the exception rather than the rule in world history, and were determined to right that wrong.

How do we create a system in which the freedom of the individual, or personal liberty, is protected?

In order to safeguard liberties, they knew they would have to impose limitations on government - limitations that would be etched in a permanent (though amendable) Constitution and would be bolstered by a complex scheme of checks and balances among the various levels and branches of government.

This concept of freedom and liberty has been attacked over and over again through the decades and centuries - by the imperialist power which wanted to keep us as a colony, by the concept of slavery in the American south, by the Nazis, by the Communists, by Islam - but we insist on being free:

One of the principal drawbacks of freedom is that it is inherently vulnerable to attack. By its very nature it permits, and perhaps even invites, assaults from within and without. But freedom is worth fighting and dying for, and Americans have always risen to the challenge.

There are thousands of organized people outside the USA who hate the fact that we have freedom, and they want to stop our concept of liberty, and they want to kill us. There are also people inside the USA who don't like liberty, and would rather have government programs dictate to us about how we should live. But freedom is our political goal, liberty is our political value.