A Dream of a Tale
June 28, 2018
For some of us these are nightmarish times. Usually summer is a time of dreams realized in the United States but the summer of 2018 is anything but, especially for those seeking dreams of freedom. For many of us who still cherish the dreams of our ancestors, all of whom were immigrants to this continent, we worry and wonder what the future will bring for us all. We must, I believe, remember that this is a nation built upon dreams.
The dreams that had created the United States of America were not new dreams but they had been considered illogical. For centuries, mankind had believed in varieties of mythologies and none of them spoke of equality or independence. In fact, most myths made it very clear that mere mortals were completely dependent upon their deities and the natural world.
People had chanced an ocean voyage to the other side of the unknown seeking the right to believe as they wished. The colonies were a collection of different groups all following different myths, different belief systems, and different religions. How could such a diverse population achieve unity and if they did, with what could they battle against one of the strongest nations in the world? It was the incredulous stuff that formed the plots of their myths. It was a foolish dream.
They began in the early 1770’s and there were hurdles to clear. Larger colonies wanted greater power and smaller colonies wanted equality. Somehow, though, agreements were reached, an army formed, a war waged and battles won. There were losses but they served much like the myths they told to their children. They learned from their losses, became stronger from their failings, and somehow, garnered the right to call themselves an independent nation.
One hundred years later, the unity they had forged in declaring their independence had become a myth in and of itself. A civil war raged on and towards the end, a man named Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that reminded them of their initial purpose, in their belief not in being slaves to immortal gods and goddesses but in being free men with equal rights and human dignity afforded to all.
Three months shy of the one hundred year anniversary of Lincoln’s speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr stood up and quoted President Abraham Lincoln. On a sunny day by a reflecting pool that makes up what is known as “the Mall” in the middle of Washington, D.C., thousands gathered to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr give a speech. It was the culmination of the day’s events and a march for better jobs and freedoms for all Americans, particularly those of African descent.
His passionate speech once again reminded those who were listening of the dreams that had become the founding mythologies of the United States of America. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. … I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
If you are a reader of this blog, you know that I believe a summer day camp in the Piney Woods southwest part of the state of Alabama Known as Sawyerville Day Camp to be the living embodiment of Dr. King’s dream. The Dream that all men are treated equally is still an effort, both in this country and in every country in the world. It was the very dream that we in the United States of America will celebrate in the coming week. Known as Independence Day, it is the anniversary of the American Revolution, that epic battle between simple farmers and religious zealots and a country well-versed in battles and winning.
For many living on the European continent, the colonists’ efforts to be free were going to become a mythological tale. Indeed, it seemed incredulous. The mythology that some people deserve to be poor dates back to the myths telling of the “chosen people”. The mythology that one’s skin color should determine one’s status or one’s religion should make one a target is the dark side of mythology. Two hundred plus years later we have a sitting Supreme Court Justice for whom Spanish was her first language and a President whose grandparents were immigrants from a nation with whom two World Wars were fought as enemies.
It has been said that creativity is closely aligned with mental illness and that those who believe in myths are crazy. We all believe in myths of one kind or another. The children of Sawyerville, both campers and staff alike, are all worthy in their right to live, to learn, to laugh, and to be celebrated. They are the descendants of those who wrote the mythologies of the world. They are the reason those myths exist.
Most of those currently being detained as illegal immigrants I do not know but you are just like every person reading this post. The children being held separately from their families are just like those smiling faces of the children at Sawyerville, many of whom had ancestors forcibly detained and brought to this nation as slaves. We all breathe; we all experience joy; we all cry; we all hunger; we all, hopefully, love. Sawyerville is celebrating its twenty-fifth summer this year, an accomplishment that would have seemed impossible in 1963 or even 1863. It was the dream that began a war in 1776 and the path that mankind began with its first step.
What some call a myth, others call fact. What some believe, others discount. Rice with all its different varieties is a staple found in kitchens all over the world and yet, most prepare it differently and serve it based upon ethnicity. It is still rice and it still tastes delightful. The different myths of the world are just as entertaining and meaningful. We do not need to believe them all; we should just respect them and the cultures from whence they came. Yesterday, as they have for the past twenty years at Sawyerville Day Camp, girls and boys of different races, ages, cultures, and backgrounds, joined hands to prove the best myths are those dreams that see realization. Dreaming is believing!
The spirits of our mythologies reflect the spirit of mankind, the life force and mental acuity within us all. The journey begun in 1776 is even more important today. As we move into this weekend and a week of Independence Celebrations, I hope we remember that the battle is not yet won.
Racial bias is also based upon myths as are religious biases and ethnic biases. We need to learn the truths and then build productive dreams in order to move forward. This nation was built by the sweat of those forcibly brought to this continent and ever since we have pretended to be blind to that fact. The current economy is suffering because all of a sudden we have decided to use legal status as a right to live. In truth, legal status has never played much importance when it comes to those who do the real hands to the ground work in this country.
The actions we take today and tomorrow will be the fodder of our mythology that the world will remember in the future. They will bridge a divide first experienced when mortals believed in immortals – the divide of difference. They will also speak of our humanity or lack thereof. The spirit of the future is not based upon ignorance but upon peaceful living and respect for all.