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The American Dream and Poverty Ideology

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The Great American Dream

The playing field is a land of plenty. The game is democratic free enterprise. The only skills needed are hard work and a good attitude. If America is a country where anyone can go from rags to riches, then failure must be a sign of personal iniquity, not social inequity. Prosperity is out there for the winning…or so the story goes.

Americans pride themselves on the absence of royalty or nobility in our representative democracy, but there are and always have been elites. Throughout American history, defenders of the American Dream have cited cases of men who made their fortunes through ambition and industry. Certain influential figures---including Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, and Russell H. Conwell---stand out for their contributions to cultural dialogue on business ethics and social values. They helped construct an ideology that associates success with individualism, determination, and morality. But after 400 years of American conquest, the millionaires and rags-to-riches stories are still the exception, not the rule. Is everyone else just not trying hard enough?

Map of America, or the New World, by Theodor de Bry, 1596. The four figures are, clockwise from top left, Christopher Columbus,  Amerigo Vespucci, Francisco Pizzaro and Ferdinand Magellan.
Map of America, or the New World, by Theodor de Bry, 1596. The four figures are, clockwise from top left, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Francisco Pizzaro and Ferdinand Magellan. | Source

Opportunity

One underlying assumption in the American Dream is that this is a fertile land with a wealth of opportunities, where the streets are metaphorically paved with gold. In the words of 19th-century orator Russell H. Conwell, everyone has within their reach “acres of diamonds.”

Descriptions of America as a land of plenty date back to early colonial times. The 1698 essay by Gabriel Thomas, “An Account of Pennsylvania and West New Jersey,” is a classic example of the come-to-the-New-World genre. Thomas describes in extravagant detail all the bountiful commodities that the new colonists were enjoying. He extols the abundance of natural resources, wildlife, and territory, and leads his readers to believe that even disease and corruption were rare. Thomas attributes prosperity to the good laws of the new colonies and the extensive opportunities for trade and commerce. Land was cheap and wages good by continental standards, and his listing of salaries by occupation was one of the most compelling attractions for potential immigrants. His essay conveys the myth that such generous conditions are conducive to an almost utopian society, where there is no need for beggars or idleness.

"Poor Richard Illustrated: Lessons for the Young and Old on Industry, Temperance, Frugality by Benjamin Franklin", 1887. Lithograph surrounded by 24 vignettes illustrating maxims from his writings.
"Poor Richard Illustrated: Lessons for the Young and Old on Industry, Temperance, Frugality by Benjamin Franklin", 1887. Lithograph surrounded by 24 vignettes illustrating maxims from his writings. | Source

Industry

The attitude of the American way is an ambitious approach to work. American values about employment and individualism have been shaped by the Protestant work ethic, which regards industry as an end in itself.

Benjamin Franklin was a key patron of this ideology, and his intellectualized version represents a one-size-fits-all prescription for success. From his 1748 “Advice to a Young Tradesman,” we have this classic conviction: “In short, the way to Wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the Way to Market. It depends chiefly on two words, INDUSTRY and FRUGALITY.” In Franklin’s “Father Abraham’s Speech,” he puts forth such maxims as “Diligence is the Mother of Good Luck” and “God gives all things to Industry.”

Morality

America’s colonial Protestants considered wealth and success to be a mark of the “saved” or “elect.” In writing about Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop, author Patricia O’Toole describes a Puritan world that believed in Christian love but was governed by the rational pursuit of money. Winthrop’s advice on wages was to pay ordinary laborers just enough to get by, because common people would waste extra money. Two centuries later, Andrew Carnegie would make the same argument in his 1889 tract, “The Gospel of Wealth”: “It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrown in to the sea than so spent as to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy…. Those worthy of assistance, except in rare cases, seldom require assistance.”

Russell Conwell expanded this theme into powerful social messages in his very popular “Acres of Diamonds” speech in 1890. If material success is linked with morality, then wealthy people must be good people. Conwell even offered his own statistics: “ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men are honest. That is why they are rich.” He followed through with his internal logic, applying it to impoverished people who have not found success: “To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins, thus to help him when God would still continue a just punishment, is to do wrong…After all, there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings or by the shortcomings of someone else.”

Flawed Paradigm

As a cultural motif, the Protestant work ethic is a double-edged sword for the lower classes. It both justifies disproportionate wealth---thereby serving as a political excuse to ignore economic injustice---and inherently condemns the character of those who cannot break out of poverty. Premised on assumptions about the availability of opportunity and the relationship between industry and morality, its legacy is an unresolved ethical conflict at the heart of the American consciousness.

"The Scales of Justice". Gilded bronze figure on top of the dome of the Central Criminal Court on Old Bailey. The figure was designed by Frederick William Pomeroy. Author: Colin Smith
"The Scales of Justice". Gilded bronze figure on top of the dome of the Central Criminal Court on Old Bailey. The figure was designed by Frederick William Pomeroy. Author: Colin Smith | Source

Poverty Ideology and Policy-Making

There are chasms in the roads paved with gold. It was during the Great Depression in America that the condition of increasing poverty first came to be widely seen as a structural problem and was addressed nationally. Since then, policy attention to income assistance programs has shifted in accordance with public opinion. The core debate in welfare politics is the false dilemma between poverty as a social problem and poverty as a personal problem. Ideological assumptions can lead to subjective judgments about the causes of an individual’s circumstances and whether they deserve assistance.

Author: Stuart Wilding
Author: Stuart Wilding | Source

Assistance

The notion that one should work for governmental subsidization is a logical basis for allocating benefits. Many argue that it is the fairest way to distribute resources to needy people who are physically capable of employment. But the merits of such policies should be evaluated objectively, devoid of moralistic rhetoric about worthiness and minus ignorance about the many other factors that contribute to poverty.

One comparatively uncontroversial policy of economic subsidization involves tuition assistance for teenaged college students. This may well be a social investment in human capital, but it is a marked contradiction to the virtual political isolation experienced by non-collegiate teenagers---teenagers who might be working full-time at minimum wage. This subsidization of higher education economically segregates youth within only a year of high school graduation according to values other than the work ethic. College student loans and scholarships may be socially desirable mechanisms of assistance, but they should be acknowledged as an inconsistency in the work-for-aid dogma.

"Hard Work", editorial cartoon by George Herriman from Sunday, November 24 1907 (LA Examiner)
"Hard Work", editorial cartoon by George Herriman from Sunday, November 24 1907 (LA Examiner) | Source

Profit Versus Effort

America’s culture does not expect hard work from everyone, nor does its system guarantee a better living situation for those who do work hard. It is the type of job, not the mere virtue of working, which will determine one’s income, benefits, and privileges. Workers might string together full-time hours without receiving full-time benefits, at part-time or temporary positions which do not offer even basic health-care insurance. Income determination is based on factors other than pure effort or labor hours, such as access to investment or training opportunities. Many salaries are also based on market worth, such as in the entertainment or professional sports industries.

This may all be acceptable or even laudable to some under a “free market” philosophy. But unless every individual were to possess true mobility within a range of choices in a completely unregulated economy, the free market is an illusion. Most people who are struggling with a poor job or salary situation do not have the luxury of “voting” in the economy by quitting their jobs and relocating to a better position. Assuming that sociological problems would disappear if only everyone adhered better to a capitalist, communist, or any other model is a purist fantasy.

Interior view of the Statue of Liberty, Author: Daniel Schwen
Interior view of the Statue of Liberty, Author: Daniel Schwen | Source

Idealism to Pragmatism

The myth of the American Dream has inspired generations of immigrants and motivated many citizens towards success. But it is a profound distraction from effective policy-making because it presumes to address social differences through a provincial allegory. In reality, success has many different formulas. An individual’s assets may include education, capital, social networking, family privileges, access to transportation, natural talents, personality, physical appearance, help and luck. In discussing poverty solutions, we must take into account every potential sociological factor.

We must break free of oversimplified, ideologically flawed paradigms in order to rationally create policies that support human dignity, productivity, and justice. Let us thoroughly evaluate relevant programs, examine accurate data, and suggest proactive strategies. Meanwhile, let us examine our own assumptions and judgments of others. Even if a utopian society or global world order of any ilk is achievable, there will be poverty until it is established. …and then there will still be human disease and misfortune and tragedy. How shall we deal with it?

Comments 38 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I wrote a hub about the American Dream a few months ago. Only problem was mine wasn't nearly this good. :)


dreamseeker2 3 years ago

Food for thought, with a lot on America's plate. : ) I don't always understand all the political reasoning and thoughts, but I know America seems to be in one big mess these days. Too many out of work and for too long (I, unfortunately being one in that situation) and conflict of interest in our social and political parties realm. You have done a great job in putting it in perspective. I admire your intellect and thoughts regarding it all. Thanks for the info. A great hub. Enlightening!


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Bill---Aw, thank you for the compliment! I know you were not self-promoting, but I tried to find that hub and couldn't (with 400+ I figured I should just ask anyway, goodness!!)...what was the title? Your style is usually so motivating and positive, while I was taking a satirical approach here--probably very different perspective. :-) Thanks for reading and commenting.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

dreamseeker---Politics are messy and difficult, and there's too much inflated debate that doesn't seem to solve the real problems so many Americans face! I have great hope and respect for our system, but would like to see the unnecessary rhetoric cleared away so the real work can continue. I wish you well with everything---you are a talented writer, and wouldn't it be nice if that was all it took to succeed? :-) I truly appreciate your kind comments.


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

Excellent hub, I believe the "American Dream" aspect is far deeper, and with political influence must more sinister. For those of us who have achieved a rags to riches story we have little sympathy for those who say its impossible to do. I started a business with 200 bucks and a borrowed building, I sold it 18 years later for over $600K. I worked 365 days a year for the first 9 years including Christmas and Thanksgiving. I didn't get my first week off for vacation until 15 years into business. I am not alone, most don't have the ambition, nor work ethic for that type of sacrifice.

Govt. is in the way these days and it would be much much harder!


kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

Great article! Whatever the style of writing or the subject you choose you do it with brilliancy!

Politic is a difficult subject! I lived in three different continents in my life and politic can be a messy business unfortunately! Instead of being there for the good of the people, some politicians choose to help more themselves than their country. It's too bad. I am not taking any side here; it's a thought I always had.

In Belgium for example one part of the country wants separation from the rest (and Belgium is so tiny already as it is). And at one point not too long ago, after the elections, it took more than a year to form the governement because each side wanted more than the other! And the country continued to fonction as if nothing happened. I find that so interesting! And the funny thing is that the motto of Belgium is "Unity is strength"!

The other strange thing is that I chose to live in another country where one part wants to separate!

It's life!

Voted up, interesting and awesome!


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Patriot Quest---I appreciate the contribution of your experienced insights. You are not alone, but you are rare...not just in success but for your work ethic.

I have personally witnessed a real rags-to-riches story myself; one of my college jobs (I minored in Business Management) was with an entrepreneur. She was a single mom who used her last savings to start a craft business that is now a very popular nation-wide school fundraiser. I was with her during the transition from working in her apartment to her first warehouse location---and she worked night and day to make that happen. But I've also seen people work just as hard in crummy jobs that go nowhere!

Your point about needing a more supportive government structure is well-taken, as is your point that it's not impossible, just *hard*.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Joelle---Thank you so much for your compliments and comment! How interesting, to have lived on three continents. I was unaware of Belgium's separation issue and am shaking my head at the irony of that motto.

My undergraduate degree is in Politics but I have never taken sides in the bipartisan system we have here---I try to look at policy issues on their own terms. I wish we could elect leaders without the party machines, because they are self-serving. I have little patience for domestic politics in fact, because I care most about the really big global issues....human rights, poverty, health, peace, freedom...and the talking heads seem to be wasting a lot of time.

I feel like it shouldn't be so hard to figure out how to get everyone's basic needs met and then encourage everyone to reach their full potential. But those kind of sentiments tend to get labelled as uber-liberal or communistic which doesn't make sense to me. I don't think we should take anything away from anyone, just prevent corruption and injustice. I'm happy for people who reach the top of their fields, as long as they don't crush others on the way up.


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

Not to beat a dead horse, I just wanted those who agree with entitlement to know that the majority abuse the system, its been proven time and again. There are thousands of ways to break free, Just recently I went to a garage sale, bought 2 old Zippo lighters for 5 bucks, sold them 2 days later on Ebay for $65 dollars. I garage sale every chance I get looking for stuff like that. Anyone can come up with 10 dollars to do this. I made enough to buy some groceries had I been in dire need. I was taught not to take from others, because they too are working hard. Those in crummy jobs, need to think their way out!


kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

I completely agre with you. I am tired of politics that doesn't help the people it's supposed to help. I find that sometimes politicians take to much time to talk and not enough time to act or would do anything to sabotage the other party to provoke a crisis.

Because I have dual citizenship (Canadian and Belgium) and because of the laws in Belgium, I have to vote when there is an election in Belgium (by mail). If I would decide not to vote, I might have a fine (I never tried not to vote).

As a kid, I lived in Africa and even if I was young, I remember a lot of the poverty. And I heard a lot about corruption and abuse. Really sad.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Patriot Quest---True, and it is because of dishonest people who abuse the system that the system itself has a bad reputation (which holds true for any institution---corporations, the justice system, churches, etc.). The real enemy is corruption. There are those in true need though.

I have sold a few things on Ebay myself and frequently shop at thrift stores. I agree that resourcefulness and a good work ethic will find opportunities---Craigslist ads for odd-jobs-for-hire are another example. Good money management is also a huge part of making ends meet, aka frugality.

I'm also thinking about companies who hire new part-timers rather than give full-time positions to loyal workers so they can avoid paying benefits; it's easy to say "then they should quit and find a better job", but the job market can be tough and sometimes people are already doing odd jobs in addition....and sometimes there's a poor health situation (with no health insurance), or childcare responsibilities, or sometimes it just takes a little time for even a resourceful person to get back on their feet. I personally try to withhold judgment of individuals and look instead at what kinds of policies could improve the big picture.

I always come back to education---education about financial planning, efficient work habits, writing a better resume, vocational training, etc.---and I do think it is a social obligation to support high-quality public education. I don't think those who rise to the top need to be cut down, Robin Hood-style (stealing is stealing) to make a step for another....I think that a society flooded with healthy opportunities will lift everyone up higher.

I am more comfortable asking questions than answering them. It is a sink or swim world....but some people are born swimmers, some have the benefit of early lessons, and some just jump in and learn on the spot. I cannot judge the drowning and I cannot watch them suffer without wishing I could help. I take your view to mean that we should not be stealing other people's lifevests or boats especially to help someone who just floats or flounders without even trying to swim, and I agree with that. But there has to be more we can do to address the sheer waste of life around us.

Hard work is the beginning, and we can agree on that! :-)

~Lurana


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Joelle---It's interesting to me that Belgium requires voting; it's a right that people have died to win and yet many Americans nonchalantly do not bother.

I sympathize greatly with the deep political problems faced by the countries of Africa (many of whose government issues date back to artificial colonial borders that oppressed ethnic group identity).

I think many, many people are tired of the politician culture---there is too much currying favor and not enough action, as you say! Thanks so much for your input.

I went to your page today and am going to try that one paper bag puppet soon...I'll comment on it when we actually complete it. :-)


kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

I hope that your kids will enjoy making the puppet and then play with it! Let me know :-)


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

You made a valid point concerning business that only hires part time to avoid benefits...........So that leaves us with this question, Is the big business evil because of what they are doing? I ask because this is the mindset of the left? My answer would be they are running a business that is SUPPOSED to be for profit and they may have share holders holding them accountable etc...........Which leads to the next bit of the story..........why aren't these companies able to pay benefits like they use too?.............my guess is government intervention and unions! At least that is what is destroying other companies in this country, People are generaly not evil, they want the best for their emplolyees,..........maybe they simply cannot afford the regulations, the hassles, the unions, the taxes, the permits, and on and on! The left needs to learn all these good government laws, and "stuff" supposedly there to protect and help is usually detrimental to the poor and middle class.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

I found the example of Walmart versus Costco to be thought-provoking---they might not be exactly parallel businesses, but the following article presents statistics to show that investing in human capital does not necessarily translate to poor profits. These are the kind of long-term strategies that would make for a better marketplace for workers and a better bottom line for the businesses:

http://pacific-human-capital.com/wal-mart-vs-costc...


Sheri Faye profile image

Sheri Faye 3 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

Mrs....you know I am a big fan of yours, but I have to put in my two cents here. First of all, the world is bigger than America. The issues you are talking about are impacting the entire planet. And the global reccesion is, I will say it, America's fault. I am Canadian and because of America's choices have seen my own, very hard won investments, trickle away. And I don't get to vote there. You Americans need to take responsibility for your impact on the world, not just wave your red white and blue. If you look at pictures of our pretty blue planet, it is not criss crossed with lines and borders, and god does not have a soft spot for the states...as in god bless america.

Work ethic....I started my biz with twenty dollars...literally...twenty dollars. By a ton of hard work, long hours, long years of long hours, with no help from any government or handouts...I made a success at it. I am not special in any way. I did not complete high school, my childhood was a nightmare of abuse and neglect, and I could have whined my way all through life, but I chose work. I am not bragging, I am just saying anything is available to anyone...if they want to put in what ever it takes. If someone chooses to work at Wallmart or McDonalds that is their choice. Those businesses are not required to pay them what they think they are worth, but what free enterprise allows. They could always start their own business...rather than complain about what they don't get from thier employers. As an employer in Canada, by law, we have to pay our employees 26 days per year for NOT working. That is two weeks vacation and one stat a month. Mulitiply that by how many employees you have and it is a huge burden. At one time I had 20 employees....here is the math...that means I was paying a whopping 520 days wages...for no profit, no production for my biz. On top of that employers must meet employees ccp and uic payments. It actually costs an employer here in Canada, and I imagine it is close in the states, about 35 percent more than the employee sees on a paycheck. So if an employee is making say, ten dollars per hour it costs the employer 13.50 per hour. I have hired hundreds of people over the years, many of them hard working and wanting to make the biz an success, but I would say an equal amount of them entitled, spoiled and really could care less if the biz is a success or not. And, in spite of their attitude, I had to pay them anyway. I have now closed my biz and am starting on this new venture, writing, and am equally determined to make a success out of it, but I chose this venue, in part, because I will never ever have another employee....this time it is up to me, and just me. A long shot?..you bet, but I have beat long shots before.

Rant over...you are very intelligent and articulate and this hub rocks!


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

Sheri,

It is true America brought the financial crisis to "light" We did this because Democrats forced through yet another bill called the fair housing act, this bill did nothing more than force huge financial companies to give loans they normally wouldn't! They were told behind closed doors not to worry because the govt would bail them out if there became a problem. BUT! the rest of the liberal world, (Canada) included used the stock market and the flourishing economy to borrow borrow borrow! When the economy crashed their misguided entitlement minded ways caught up with them! Greece, Spain, Europe etc. are now suffering along with us! Keep in mind the conservative states are still doing fine along with low unemployment etc. The liberal ideology always fails while conservative values and implementations always continue to keep economies, cities, and states running smoothly. .........hey facts are facts, If you would like to debate these facts I would point to California and New York, 2 most liberal states in the union compared to Oklahoma and Texas, 2 most conservative states in the union.............debate over!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 3 years ago from South Africa

Very interesting hub about the American Dream and the Poverty Ideology.

So true: "In reality, success has many different formulas. An individual’s assets may include education, capital, social networking, family privileges, access to transportation, natural talents, personality, physical appearance, health, help and luck."

.... and especially luck. If I've been properly paid for all my dedication and hard work through-out the years, I would have been a billionaire.

Somehow we have to strike luck in order to get out of the groove we were born in....


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Sheri---Your two cents are always welcome! I appreciate your perspective as a Canadian and business owner and your insights from your own story.

Trust me, if I was waving a flag it would be a world-peace flag, not the red-white-and-blue. My focus here was definitely insular and more a take on the cultural ethos (directed more at my fellow Americans) than anything else. Your point about macroeconomic effects is important, and I agree that American's isolationist attitude is irresponsible---but it's probably more effective (debate strategy-wise) to point out how our nationalistic focus hurts us in the long run (and I would want to back up that statement with some data but I just don't have it at hand right now...so let me leave it as my opinion). Many Americans simply don't care about the rest of the world OR they only see the mainstream media that tells us we are saving the world. Seriously.

Again, thanks for commenting. And congrats again on your recent hub-of-the-day! :-)


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

MartieCoetser---Hello and thanks for commenting! I think you picked the one sentence that sums up my main point: there are a lot of factors at work. There are many smart entrepreneurs, for example, who did their market research and have the right talents and may even do well for a while but then other factors---beyond their control---undermine their success. Of course they can pick up the pieces and start over, but if you look at even the most successful people, they often have low points in their lives where they didn't look like winners at all. They were either climbing or rebounding, but they looked like they were failing at the time. Sometimes the turning point to success came from something outside themselves---a serendipitous business tip, a temporary loan, the competition folded, a friend helped them out briefly, whatever! If they weren't working hard all along, they couldn't have been in the right place at the right time---but there's just so much more going on in this world than inspiration and perspiration.

Thanks again for the visit. :-)


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

The premise of the ideology is good...but in the heat of free enterprise and therefore competition, some who are unable to compete get left out in the cold. Thanks for sharing, Lurana. Passing this thought provoking write along.


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

Mrs Brown your last comment almost came across as though you believe anyone with success actually boils down to blind luck? I would hope you would read more rags to riches stories if this is true! I have many to share. I was a little dismayed at your comment you would rather waive the flag of peace than the red white and blue, Boy if that's not an Obamaiac attitude I don't know what is! One cannot live their life in fantasy, Muslims will never allow peace, people are different, Mexico will never prosper because they have a culture of laziness, they still sleep in the middle of the day in deep Mexico,......of course they have little to no heart disease either! LOL, Americans are a product of the protestant work ethic, we are over achievers, competitors, We give more than any country on earth! We continue to give millions to countries that hate us! When do we stop aplogizing and hold our heads high for being the greatest country on earth? Reagan would have never instilled such weakness into other Americans as Obama has.........what a shame........


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Michelle---Thank you for your thoughtful comment, I appreciate it!


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Patriot Quest---I believe success is a combination of factors. Rags-to-riches stories by definition happen with hard work and sacrifice. But every individual has a story, and there may have been other contributing factors in varying combinations---resourcefulness, skill, or perhaps a lucky break.

In my last comment, one point I was hoping to make was that we cannot judge an individual by a random glance at their timeline; even huge success stories have low points or beginnings. My conclusion was that putting forth our best efforts allows us to take full advantage of advantages. I did not mean to give the impression that I think all success is due to blind luck.

I vote independently and do not affiliate myself with Obama nor anyone else. I have many grievances with the Obama administration, but I can find pros and cons with every presidential administration in American history! That said, it's a heavy mantle to bear and I have respect for the office of President even when I deeply disagree with certain policies.

My biggest problem with the United States Government is our ongoing violations of international law, under which Obama would be a war criminal: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/05-3

I have respect for law on principle, because without it there would be anarchy; humans are not highly evolved enough yet to manage on good will alone. I believe a legal agreement should be respected or not entered into. The United States wields much global power (and does much good, yes) but does not live up to accords we ourselves have signed.

I believe our disregard for international codes of conduct undermines our reputation and leverage and is one of the reasons other people hate us. I am proud of many aspects of America, but would like to be proud of her integrity too.


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

Thank you for responding to my last comment, I appreciate the opportunity to try to understand the other side so to speak. Not to mention I find your comment very interesting.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Patriot Quest---You too. In some ways, your mindset is who I was directing this essay at originally. :-) Your comments get at the heart of what I'm discussing, and I don't mind being challenged. We both want a more free, more just, and more economically healthy society for America...it's just the details of how to get there that we might disagree upon. I value your perspective and honestly appreciate your willingness to consider my thoughts.


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

As a side note, I have begged other liberals to "SELL" me their ideas, but it almost always ends in name calling and hateful comments, OR they take my comments and turn them into something hateful, I may never understand your side, but If I understand the thinking there may be something useful in the mix to make my own life more productive....................of course I doubt that very seriously LOL!


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

PatriotQuest---I think looking for common ground is the most productive thing anyone can do. I don't always agree with people with "liberal" views either, although it's obviously much, much easier for me to find common ground with them. I didn't react to the part of your comment about Muslims, Mexicans, or Reagan because it sounded like hyperbole or a flame war waiting to happen (even though I took offense) because I think you had other things to say that I can and did want to continue our dialogue about. I have a sense of humor about my own rhetoric too and would rather focus on forward-thinking ideas. :-)


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

interesting that you took offense? Did I say something offensive? I have studied the Muslim religion and can only say what I see from them therefore base my assumptions on simply that? If parts of the Baptist church were suicide bombing, and talking about destroying Israel etc. you can bet the Southern Baptist convention would be on the news nightly disclaiming that group as a part of themselves...........we see little to none of this with the Muslim religion? They treat woman horribly, they promote hate, and they are taught that Christianity is of the devil and that Christiams must be killed. I have seen this with my own eyes in their Koran..........yes some do say this isn't true, but I have read two books written by muslims that converted over to Christianity that both claim this is correct.

I grew up in West Texas , I know the Mexican culture very very well..................please explain where the offense came from???


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

You know what? don't bother answering that last comment, .........it saddens me that we have to be so politicaly correct and that we can't talk about differences in culture and religion. Never mind Maher can use blatant hate speech against Christians while your side laughs, but say one word about the Muslim religion even though they are suicide bombing innocent civilians somewhere in the world right now is somehow wrong. The left can only smear the culture of whites and Christians in good faith. Any other culture, race or creed is off limits and offensive to them..........doesnt' matter how I feel when I or my religion is bashed. Besides its off topic and not fair to your hub.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

I do find your concerns worth talking about, though I agree we have gotten off topic with the hub. But my offense was to generalizations.

I too have studied a bit more of Islam than most non-Muslim Americans....my second minor in college was in Middle Eastern studies, and I studied the Arabic language, Islamic Revivalism, and visited Egypt. I grieve for the violence and abhorrent treatment of women you describe and also see the theocratic obstacle to world peace. But I still see beauty and faith and much diversity within Islam. My thesis in college was on the Peace Process, hence my studies (and I see tragic hardheadedness on all sides).

If you had made an over-generalization about Christians, I would have been equally offended and would have spoken up for them in my thread too. I have done many Bible studies but choose not to label myself with any religion either. I see faith as very personal.

I am not as familiar with the Mexican culture except from acquaintances. But what some might call laziness, others might call pro-family and less stressful.

It is not political correctness that I'm trying to uphold, and I don't think we should gloss over differences either. Maybe I just don't identify so strongly with my own culture that I find it superior.

I mentioned that I felt offense because I was describing why I chose to respond to other aspects of that comment: I prefer to focus on common ground instead of focusing on the blatantly controversial areas of our external political views. I also saw your generalizations as a hyperbole, because you followed it up with a generalization about Americans.

I don't represent liberals, just my own ideas. I'll look forward to any dialogues with you, knowing that we're not hoping to convert each other to our outlooks, just taking a chance on some passionate debate.


Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

I loved that last part "knowing we're not trying to convert" LOL, that made me laugh, I do enjoy the debate, Ok back on track, we will save the culture craze for another time.....


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

This is a well written and thought out analysis of our economic system here in the U.S. I agree with you, there are many factors and variables that enter into why we gave poverty in this country. I have taught in an inner city school and there is much struggle students must go through to overcome their poverty. They have to be tough to make it out of the 'hood', the 'ghetto', the 'projects.' It is not a challenge for the faint of heart. I agree, rags to riches stories are few and far between. I do like your last question because we need to have a discussion about it. Thanks you for an intelligently presented piece.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I find that the American dream is rather easy. So I do not really care about it. Pay mortgage, work for a living and blah blah blah. I can do that to keep everyone happy.

But when I hug someone --- that is my American dream. Allow me to hug you with words. hub hugs and thank you for an excellent piece of work.

I am hub hopping you, what a delight.


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Suzette---Thank you for reading and for your contribution. I am always thinking of the children...thank you for being their advocate. Poverty is such a complex social/political/economic issue. Encouragement and quality education are of tremendous value, regardless of one's circumstances...I would venture to say that they are even more important than material assets in determining an individual's long-term success. Thank you for your time as a teacher!!! :-)


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Eric----Aw, thank you for the hug and for the time you spent on my page!! I'm trying to catch up on comments today and was honored to see so many from you. I appreciate it very much.

Basic needs met and enough time to enjoy our loved ones---that is the dream! We are truly rich if we have that. :-)


ocfireflies profile image

ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina

Lurana,

Your essay is thoughtful and provocative. I admire your work and admire your willingness to take such complex issues and discuss them in a rational matter.

Best Always,

Kim


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois Author

Kim---Thank you, I really appreciate your thoughtful feedback. It's difficult to approach topics we are passionate about with rationality, but I keep trying because it's the only way to have effective dialogue. Thanks again and my best to you too! ~Lurana

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