In Honor of the American Dream

America was built on dreams.  We have a Dream where other countries have histories, state churches and unifying national identities.

Some other day, I’ll talk about the people who’ve gotten lost searching for that Dream, and the ones that have fallen into the American Nightmare.  Some other day I’ll talk about how we’ve fallen short of that Dream again and again.  But not today.  Today is the day to honor the Dream itself, that bright shining hope that might still be our greatest contribution to the world.

And the best way I can think of to honor the Dream is to honor those who believed in it most deeply and lived it most truly.  Those who crossed oceans and borders, who faced hardship and danger for that Dream.  The people who built this country: the immigrants. 

When I was young, this was the narrative I believed about immigration:

Full orchestra playing.  Bright, epic, grand.  Of course everyone’s coming to America, and it’s an undilutedly joyous thing, because they’re coming to America!  And we’ll welcome them in wholeheartedly because we’re America!

As I got older, I learned that it wasn’t that easy.  I learned about the hardship, and the bittersweet that came with even the happiest success story:

(Special bonus version of “Isle of Hope” below…less epic, but sweeter)

Then, a few years ago, I found this.  And I think it’s the closest to the truth I’ve found yet.  The other songs talk about the light the newcomers followed.  This is about the fire they walked through.

A bit dark and angry, I suppose, but on today of all days, it’s good to remember that a Dream like America’s is built from fire and steel…and it’s good to remember who built it.

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3 Comments

Filed under Inspirations, My Life

3 responses to “In Honor of the American Dream

  1. Strikes me that the U.S.’ slight dearth of national identity compared to many another country enables that vital ‘melting pot’ effect to gain traction…though of course there’s still no shortage of bigotry, marginalization, ‘white flight’ and other such divisive factors. It’s whether or not this country’s citizens continue to reduce such poisons’ effect that will truly determine whether the dream thrives or withers.

    Primo A/V selections here & in previous posts, by the by. I’ve dabbled with the likes of Flogging Molly, but you’ve one fine ear for Irish music. Hope your Fourth was duly enjoyed.

    • Our dearth of national identity, and our short memory, though the two are unquestionably related. Grudges that would shape (and have shaped) the history of a thousand years in other countries fade into irrelevance in a single generation here.

      Most of them, anyway. Sometimes I wonder if the Civil War is ever going to end.

      As for the tunes…keep watching. Wait ’til next St. Patrick’s Day. You haven’t seen Celtic Music yet.

      Actually, what helps me with that sort of thing is that I have a theatrical/cinematic turn of mind; whenever a song really strikes me, I imagine some character singing it (or at least, as a soundtrack for some scene). Whenever I write a scene, I generally imagine it with a soundtrack.

      And the Fourth – and the four-day weekend that came with it – were greatly enjoyed, thank you. Hope yours went well, too.

      • Ah, the Lorne effect. Can’t say I ‘visualize’ musical numbers too often, but the scene-soundtrack is another matter. Even if the music & subject matter would be one questionable mashup before any sort of audience, it lends a given tableau that much more energy in my head.

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