The great American dream has come true. We now appear to have reached the point where if your IQ is at least 150, you’re really good looking, you’re incredibly diplomatic, you have uncommon oratorical skills, and you have impeccable timing, then you, as a political candidate, can be judged not by the color of your skin, but by the content of your character. Yes indeed, it took a strange constellation of circumstances to get a black man elected President of the United States, but the fact of the matter is that it happened. And now, instantly, American Democracy has taken a qualitative leap upward on the evolutionary scale.
But what does this election do for dreaming, now that MLK Jr.’s prayers have been answered? Are we dreamers no longer needed? Is it now time for the pragmatists to sweep us aside and get busy, without our interference? Nah. We always have a role to play. For until the Messiah comes – and for my money, since he’s a fictional concept, we have an eternity to wait – there will always be room for dreaming. Allow me to offer three dreams. The first two seem to be well within reach – at least within most of our lifetimes. The second? More quixotic, and yet infinitely more worthwhile.
Dream #1: that someday, we will live in a country where neither pundits nor politicians feel free to label people “real Americans” or to mock others as somehow less authentic as Americans simply because of (a) the geographical area where they live, (b) their political views, or (c) their socio-economic class. It wasn’t long ago that I could have added two other categories – race and gender. Thankfully, our public sphere has reached the point where talking-heads who elevate some Americans over others because of their race or gender will pay dearly in credibility. Barack’s election has placed one more very powerful nail in the coffin of outspoken racism. But … polarizing pundits and politicians continue to abound. And while their appeals may be more subtle than the racist or sexist verbiage of decades past, these appeals remain nefarious. My dream is that they will cease … and in the not so distant future.
Watch Morning Joe, as I have pointed out before, and you will see on display the appeals at issue. The pundits on that show frequently ridicule Americans because they live in such “liberal” places as “Georgetown” and “the Upper West Side.” Sure, those people are rich. But so are the residents of Newport Beach, California or Windermere, Florida – communities where the multi-millionaires that abound tend to be Republican. Can we tolerate a political environment where the residents of the latter communities are respected as authentic Americans, whereas their more liberal counterparts in the northeast are viewed as unpatriotic and even alien? Similarly, can we dare elect politicians who praise the residents of small towns but mock those who toil anonymously as “community organizers” – the crown jewels of our urban areas?
In my dream, everyone has come to recognize that the strength of America lies in its diversity – and that includes ideological diversity. Just as a William Safire must be treated with respect, just as a Ronald Reagan must be treated with respect (and credit Barack big time for showing him that respect during the Democratic primary), that applies to died-in-the-wool liberals as well. Question their positions. Question their judgment. But in my dream, those who question their patriotism and their authenticity as Americans – absent evidence of real treason – will be the ones who are ostracized.
Dream #2 – that someday, all pairs of consenting adults will be able to get married, regardless of race, color, creed or sexual preference. I have said a lot on this topic in previous posts, and it hardly appears necessary to belabor the point. But today, something must be said. This afternoon, all over the country, many people who care deeply about marriage will be taking to the streets. I plan on being among them. We will be demonstrating in support of gay marriage … or more to the point, in support of the right for every human being to participate in a ceremony, sanctified by the rule of the law, in which they will pledge their hearts to another consenting adult for as long as the two will live.
In Washington, D.C, we will be meeting at the Reflecting Pool by the Capitol at 1:30 p.m. If you live in the area and read this before then, please come. We need as many supporters as possible to make this dream become a reality. But believe me – it’s just a matter of time before this dream will be realized. The trend is on the side of tolerance. The trend is on the side of viewing the right to wed as a fundamental right. As I approach my sixth decade on earth, I can’t imagine where my own life would be without it.
Dream # 3 – The peaceful co-existence of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Yes, you heard me. Now that a black man has been elected President of the United States, we can envision pigs flying … hell freezing over … and Israelis and Palestinians co-existing as peacefully as those who live on the Canadian/American border.
Of course this one is far off. But today, it seems significantly more reachable than it did three weeks ago. Somehow, the impossible now appears possible. Someday.
The question is, how do we get there? By praying, praying and more praying? Or by praying, working, and more working? I’m opting for the latter.
On recent Sundays, I have been going to mosques in the D.C. area attempting to enlist interest in Jewish-Muslim interfaith activities. My plan is to get pockets of these two people together, first in charitable and prayerful activities … and then later in honest-to-God discussions of the fundamental issues that concern us. These include such non-controversial topics as the politics of the Middle East and how to produce peace in that region.
Wherever you are, I encourage you to undertake a comparable initiative. Even if you’re not Jewish or Muslim, there’s no reason you can’t get involved. You surely know people who are Jewish or Muslim, right? Or perhaps you are part of a community (e.g., Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist) that has grown inpatient with the idea of a never-ending war in the place commonly known as “the Holy Land.” All of us can play a role in raising consciousness and seeking an amicable solution to this mess. All we need is faith that the war can ultimately end, and confidence that every little act of “détente” – whether it takes place in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or Bethlehem, Palestine – will be invaluable in producing this peace.
Trust me, when we have true peace in Israel/Palestine – whether it happens in our lifetime or those of our grandchildren – it will be even sweeter than Barack’s election. And that was pretty damned sweet, wasn’t it?