Respecting the Dream

We live in a world dominated by fast media. Information bombards us relentlessly. If we’re not seeing images urging us to “Buy, eat, get, have, consume, spend,” then we’re being shouted at by those who want to convince us that, unless we use their product, watch their program, read their book, attend their seminar, we’ll never be happy.

We’ve become so conditioned by this endless flood of incoming data that we are beginning to have trouble dealing with two major components of the human condition.

First of all, quietness and slowness are disappearing from our lives. Traffic is always headed somewhere on our roads. You can’t walk into most stores or restaurants or doctor’s offices now without hearing background music. Now, instead of just plain music when we’re put on hold, we’re either redirected to the local radio station of the call center we’ve reached or we’re reminded about the endless variety of products and services the company we’re waiting to talk to has to offer us.

We’re tethered to one another by BlackBerries, connected all the time by Instant Messenger. If we can’t be reached by someone at any time or for an extended period over a 24-hour cycle, people start to panic because we’re not responding, and therefore, “something terrible must be happening”.

The second result is that, because so much of what passes for culture and general knowledge has been condensed into the easily-digested, easily-edited soundbite, we have lost our tolerance for speech that contains anything unpolished.

A lot has been made about the gaffes and blunders of the Democratic nominees for President and Vice President. Of course, some situations can become extremely uncomfortable, even dangerous, because of what we say.

But I personally would rather have someone in office who speaks their mind, even if it means they have to go back and clarify or correct themselves later. I don’t say exactly what I mean in the best way the first time I open my mouth. If I don’t do this, why should I hold such an unrealistic expectation for the leaders I elect to run the government?

Because we’re being pushed to talk fast, we’re being pushed to think fast. There is less and less room for thinking in our daily lives. We are being reduced to the level of parroting the opinions of the sources of our information instead of creating our own.

Last night, Barack Obama became the first black man to be given the nomination for President by a major American political party. His acceptance speech took place 45 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and expressed his hope for the dream of equality and freedom for Americans of all colors and creeds that was and is a cornerstone of this country’s existence.

A lot of people are struggling right now with dwindling jobs, rising inflation, declining home values, soaring fuel prices, and uncertain health care. For any of them, to have hope is to make the difference between making it through and falling through the cracks. They may not have lofty dreams like “world peace” or “an end to suffering”. But their dreams, even as simple as they may be, whether they include having enough to keep food on the table or pay the mortgage for the next month, providing health care for aging parents, or being able to offer a child a chance at higher education, are just as precious as those wider ideals and no less important.

Regardless of the party I’m registered with, I’m going to listen to what both candidates for President have to say. I listened to Obama last night, and yes, I was swept up in the emotion of the whole event and got carried away thinking about the dreams we all have and how wonderful it would be to be able to see more people have a hope of achieving theirs.

But I will also be paying just as much attention when John McCain speaks next week. I may not agree with the policy proposals of a particular candidate, but I, as one person, am not America. If a particular path is better for the country as a whole but I personally don’t like it, I have the responsibility to respectfully disagree with the policy, even as I support the person or people that got elected to guide our nation into the next part of our collective journey.

Leading a nation is hard. Leading one as fractious and expansive as ours is even harder. Perhaps hardest of all is to lead our nation through the ever-shifting balances, alliances, and conflicts that surround us on all sides internationally. Whoever is elected in November faces a formidable task and brings his own unique perspective and set of skills to the task. Whoever he is, whether I voted for him or not, will have my respect.

Explore posts in the same categories: Dreams

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