In 1971, John Lennon imagined a world with no countries, possessions, hunger and “no religion too.” This, he presumed, would create “a brotherhood of man” wherein “the world will live as one.” Sweet!
Remember President Obama’s election victory speech in 2009? He boldly proclaimed:
I am absolutely certain, that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation.
In 2010, at the signing of a huge health coverage bill, Vice President Joe Biden introduced the President as the one making it possible “…that every American from this day forward will be treated with simple fairness and basic justice.”
This was like claiming that the Chicago Cubs had finally signed a contract ensuring that they would never again lose a game or make an out.
And the fans went wild!
Do those who cheer such brazen bilge actually believe it? The advertising industry suggests they do. I once heard a radio commercial that promised, “If you can dream it, you can become it!” A recent television ad for the Sprint Corporation pitched the idea that life can be “unlimited.” In it, a young man says, “I have a need, no; I have the right to be unlimited.”
In today’s pleasure-pursuing luxury-loving culture, Americans do not like to think in terms of limitation. We want to have it all and we love (and enrich) those who tell us we can. The human potential industry keeps churning out unlimited utopian promises for people who will pay anything for them.
Listen to President Obama on the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade (a 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated the legality of abortion):
On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere. (January 22, 2009)
In other words, let’s not let human life itself stand in the way of our dreams.
LIVING WITH LIMITS:
What makes Americans so gullible? Why do we pretend that a politician can forge fairness and basic justice for all? How is the popular mind so easily seduced into longing to be rescued by heroic speech-makers, celebrities, self-styled spiritualists or anyone who will tickle our ears with flowery rhetoric? Once seduced, we hardly notice when the proverbial flowers don’t grow. We just want the feelings. We hope our lives will change without doing the changing. We reward campaigns that make us emote over dreams of “hope and change”
I’m all for treating every American with “simple fairness and basic justice.” But the notion that a politician can sign a bill that provides this is beyond absurd. In the real world, when politicians pander, government frameworks falter, dreams become nightmares, and yes, when the Chicago Cubs lose, I am not shocked. Accepting life’s limits and responsibilities is called growing up. If you don’t like stifling boundaries, don’t try out for the basketball team. If limits on your sex life bother you, don’t get married. And stay away from people I care about!
Living well with limits is not a surrender to cynicism or apathy. Instead of longing for politicians to make our dreams come true, wake up and go to work. America cannot endure on imagination alone. Be inspired by the epilogue of a 1936 western titled “The Plainsman:”
It shall be as it was in the past… Not with dreams, but with strength and courage, shall a nation be molded to last.