I believe in the American Dream. I do not, however, believe in the Hollywood version of the American Dream, in which an ever greedier corporate world has rather successfully convinced most of us that the pursuit of material possessions ought to lie at the core of our system of values. The American Dream I believe in is a more modest one: it is the same one that inspired America’s founding two centuries ago, the same one that gave America its soul.
The world today may seem a very different place than it was two centuries ago, but much of its population still lives under political, social and economic systems that Benjamin Franklin would have found disturbingly familiar. The one very basic tenet behind America’s foundation, which many Americans take for granted today, but is still a revolutionary concept in many places around the world, is the notion that every person is equal under the law. This very unique idea, otherwise known as The Rule of Law, is not necessarily a self-evident truth. In the world I come from, the only truth is the self-perpetuating notion that those who have the means to afford it can and will bend the law to fit their needs, while those who can’t afford it will be relegated, socially and economically, to the outskirts of society, where they become, for all practical purposes, invisible.
The magic of the American experience is not that the concept of The Rule of Law was written into its constitution, but the fact that this concept transcended the written paper of its constitution and became a self-evident, living truth, and that even today, two hundred years after its initial conception, it still is the rule that governs and protects the people of the United States. I firmly believe that, in order to achieve the peace and prosperity that my country longs for, we, its ruling class, its middle class, its business class, its political class, must make every individual and collective effort to integrate our masses of invisible citizens, our poor and neglected, into mainstream society. We need to begin believing that everybody, no matter how poor, uneducated or marginalized, deserves not only equal treatment under the law but also, more importantly, equal respect under our eyes. We need to be willing to create and maintain a level playing field, even if this runs counter to our own personal and class interests. We need to begin erecting our own Statues of Liberty through which the dispossessed can gain full citizenship, full access to middle class benefits and responsibilities. I firmly believe that, if we could all put our minds to it, we could stop thinking of the American Dream as an exclusively an American invention, achievable only to those who live in America, and acknowledge the fact that it is, in reality, a Universal Dream, perfected in America, accessible to all.
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