Rebuild the Dream, by Van Jones
I picked up my copy at my friendly local bookstore (Village Bookstore in Littleton NH- may they live forever) yesterday, and read all the way through it. The first part is painful, about the missed opportunities of Obama, his administration, and the progressives. But Van Jones is so intelligent and knowledgeable, and the story carries on through the Tea Party, and the Occupy movement, to a final chapter that is totally inspiring. Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up! The arc of the moral universe is long BUT IT BENDS TOWARD JUSTICE.
His own words:
“Jefferson … accepted that the nation was founded on higher ideals than his generation could embody.
“And yet those very ideals became our true north, calling us always to higher ground. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all … are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The story of America is the story of an imperfect people, struggling to bring our founding Reality closer, ever closer to the beauty of our founding Dream.
“Remember, every cause and constituency that people of conscience care about was in the garbage can, as recently as 1900. At the turn of the last century, women couldn’t vote. African Americans and other people of color had no rights at all. Workers had no rights or security; there were no weekends; there was not one paid federal holiday; there was no middle class to speak of. Kids were toiling in factories. There were no environmental protections at all. Not only did lesbians and gays have no rights; they didn’t even have a specific designation or acknowledged term in the English language. That was where we were in 1900.” p244
He goes on to talk about the people who wanted something better than this, who said “America will never be perfect. But we can have a much more ‘perfect union’ than this.”
“Those heroes and heroines worked day after day, year after year, decade after decade, often risking their lives—to bring about progress. Some were jailed. Some were beaten. Some were martyred. But they didn’t give up. By the end of the twentieth century, we had a much fuller expression of American Democracy.
“Those heroes forged an extraordinary century, characterized by the birth of a mass middle class. They made heroic advances in the areas of worker’s rights, environmental protection, equal opportunity, and more. What the world came to call “The American Way” is, in many ways, just an amalgam of all their hopes and aims: that America could be a thriving, entrepreneurial nation, where work is respected, workers are protected, the middle class is growing, and opportunity is expanding to more and more of our people.
“… Some progressives take umbrage at the notion of American exceptionalism, seeing nothing but arrogance and jingoism in the idea. But America is exceptional if for no other reason than because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr made us exceptional. The suffragettes made America exceptional. Dolores Huerta and César Chávez made America exceptional. The Stonewall rebellion made America exceptional. Over the decades and centuries, countless good and decent people of every color and every class have marched, worked, bled, and died to make this country exceptional. We should be proud of their past achievements. And we should speak from that place of pride as we share our dreams for America’s future.” p245