The American Dream. The American Dream. The words themselves – just to think them, or to write them – strike my heart. My soul, even. With all of the thousands of words, and the determination of a writer, I’m still not sure I can explain it right. As an outsider, a Canadian, who was raised with no such reverence for my own country, let alone for the United States, I find so much of my passion lays in protecting the nation of America. And, more than that, in protecting the idea of America.
Tomorrow, I will be waking up in the quiet hours of the morning, driving a couple of hours to the aiport, and hopping on a plane to America. The last time I got to go, I had a week in the land of the free. This time, I get to spend twice as long. In particular, I will get to enjoy the Fourth of July on American soil.
I have ‘Merica on the mind – and as usual, when my mind gets caught up on something, I end up pondering deeper truths.
Earlier this week, I recorded a podcast, and the host and I had a chance to talk about what America means to me as an “outsider”. Last night, on an episode of Halsey Live, the topic of how I viewed America came up yet again. Halsey (my business partner and the host of the eponymous Halsey Live) told me something about myself that I had never put in to words. And, being a person who knows me extremely well, he got it right.
I see America as an idea.
As an outsider, I see America as a beacon of hope. I see the American Dream™ as something special, pinnacle, eternal. Do I always know exactly how I define the American Dream? No. Do I always think that America the reality is aligned with the America of my imagings? Of course not.
Even though I know, through and through, that America has massive problems that will need massive solutions, I can’t help but to find myself reminding all of my friends who have been blessed with being born in America, that there is an American Dream, and that dream is worth defending.
Halsey put it best: I see America as a beautiful thing. I believe in the American Dream, the American idea.
I want to enjoy it before everyone burns it down.
Perhaps I’m a little bit selfish. As a visitor, I have the ability to enjoy all of the best of the United States, while shielding myself from the biggest problems. I get to come to America, wear a Make America Great Again hat, drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, watch Fourth of July fireworks… and then I get to go home to Canada, a country with its own (though probably worse) problems.
I’m willing to accept that is at least partly true. I love America, damnit. I love the fun stuff, the stuff you see on TV, the red white and blue, the star spangled banner.
But I think my view of America, with an oft-forgotten reverence and patriotism, has a selfless and useful value, too. I can remind people of just how careful we need to be as we re-shape the nation (one that almost all of us love, even if we share that love differently) because I know what a nation with less freedom and less wealth and less shared ideals and less patriotism looks like.
Some may argue that we aren’t in a situation where this sort of view is necessary. We’re not near a civil war, we’re not facing a mass shift in attitude, etcetera. I personally believe this to be naive. The rhetoric is ramping up, on all sides. As much as the term “deep state” often annoys me, there are extra-governmental forces hard at work to achieve their (oft nefarious) ends.
I think that we are on the precipice of something far more frightening than many want to admit.
I say this often, and I will say it again: when dealing with matters of winning, we need to think our logic and our approach through to the very end. No half-measures. No potshots. If we act in a way that will usher in civil war, we had better be extremely clear about what that will look like, and have a plan for what we come back to when the final flames have gone out.
War may come, culture may crumble and reshape, and over that, I have no dominion.
However, I can control what I do. I can give my thoughts on what “my people” do.
I can accept, with trepidation, that the end of the American Dream as it was may disappear for a while. I may not have the chance to enjoy the America I thought I knew, to the extent I wish. My love affair with America may be a sweet summer dream, not a lifelong marriage. Timing is cruel that way.
But I can also accept that by burning everything down, we will give ourselves the chance to start anew. We will eliminate many of the obstacles which leave us struggling to make the big changes we need to to the government and to our culture. My most jaded friends, with their seemingly pessimistic views of America, will have the chance to love her again. To laugh at the chaos, to cheer as our little world burns, and to do the best we can.
There is no joy without pain. There is no peace without war.
And though I struggle to explain the American Dream, I will leave you with the words of men who tried. Men who knew that their sacrifices and hardships would shape the world for hundreds of years to come.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Are we at such a time? I cannot claim to know for sure – but only to seek my peace that whatever comes my way, I will do my best to defend the American Dream that I believe in, and the human beings who carry these ideals in their hearts and minds. And these are the words, the chilling, magnificent words, I will think of most of all in the coming days:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
God bless America, whatever comes her way.