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America: d’ont kill the dream: the world is watching

March 2, 2010

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream -- Martin Luther King Jr. In different parts of the world, in diverse languages and cultures the word dream has different meanings, connotations and interpretations. But the famous American dream owes its prominence to a speech delivered by the late Civil Rights leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, excerpted above.

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream -- Martin Luther King Jr. In different parts of the world, in diverse languages and cultures the word dream has different meanings, connotations and interpretations. But the famous American dream owes its prominence to a speech delivered by the late Civil Rights leader, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, excerpted above.
In that great poetic yet philosophical speech, he said: “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.”

Sometimes in the past, I had the opportunity to listen to some erstwhile immigrants, who are now prosperous and well known American citizens, among whom the current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, declare that whatever they have achieved in the United States was made possible by the American dream. They are quick to tell who cares to listen that hard work, determination, honesty, creativity and patriotism are highly rewarded in America as a result of the American dream. According to them, this dream creates opportunities for all irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity or skin colour.

By 1963, after more than 100 years of independence, the United States of America was still a nation under construction. And the Rev. Dr. King rightly prophesied then that America faced “difficulties” and would continue to do so in the future.

For more than 200 years, people of European origin had ruled the United States of America on the basis of racial supremacy, injustice, socio- political violence, discrimination, economic exclusion, and utter disregard for “godly” and human rights. By so doing, they sowed the seeds of the “difficulties” that Dr King talked about, and which still prevail today.
Americans are very religious. But how Godly are they? They are citizens of the United States of America. But how united are they?

In God We Trust
Boldly written on the American currency, the Almighty Dollars bill is: “In God we trust.” History has it that the first Europeans that settled on the geographical space that constitutes the present territory of the United States of America fled their native land, England, as a result of religious persecution. They were later joined by settlers from other European countries.

Given the experience of these early settlers who fled their own countries in search of religious, socio-economic and political freedom, in search of better living conditions, one would have expected them to live in peace and harmony with their hosts, the Native Americans, who had lived on that land for many centuries. But that was not to be, and has so far, never been the case. The treatment that the settlers meted out to American Indians was no different from, if not worse, than the persecution that forced them to flee the land of their own ancestors. America, thus, is a land of contradictions with the settlers and the natives all having their own dreams of a better life.

As if that was not enough the Native Americans were deprived of their God-given land through endless wars unleashed on them by the settlers. Most of the wars ended through the signing of peace agreements, which, were not respected by the settlers. In today’s America, reality contrasts with the spirit and letter of “in God we trust.”
                                           Race Relations
Relations among the diverse groups that make up the American citizenry, illustrate how erstwhile victims have, in turn, become persecutors themselves. On race issue, America is like a house built on sand, hence without a solid foundation. Residential areas follow racial lines.
Human beings of all races abhor and resist oppression, deprivation of freedom and fundamental human rights, humiliation and exploitation. America mobilized and fought side by side with the oppressed in Europe to defeat Hitler of Germany and his powerful army. The state of devastation caused by that senseless war was such that the same America had to set up a Marshal Plan for the reconstruction of Europe. Ironically, some American citizens currently brand themselves as Neo Nazis, disseminating Nazi literature, unleashing violence and suffering, pain and sometimes death on their fellow citizens under the watchful eyes of successive American Governments.

America was proclaimed free and independent in July 1776, after the war of independence and self-determination against Britain, the then colonial power. Having won their independence the hard way, one would have expected free Americans not to mete out atrocities and injustice to their fellow citizens similar to their experience under the colonial rule. But unfortunately in the 1960s Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists fought against inequality in “a state sweltering with the heat of injustice ...oppression,” and racial discrimination based on skin colour.  The America, which makes the world believe that it stands for and defends justice, equality, self-determination, freedom of expression and association and democracy harbours hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, an extremely violent and powerful separatist group. The members are lawless, brutal and racist with their philosophy based on the superiority of the “white race” over others. Literature on their activities against their fellow citizens of different racial origins is replete with gruesome, barbarous, horrendous murders and acts of terror.

Another group that shares common views with the Ku Klux Klan are the Neo Nazis, who disseminate the Nazi ideology and recognize Hitler as a great statesman. The United States considered the Nazis as a threat to world peace and got involved in the Second World War to destroy them. Is it not ironic that the same America now has its own Nazis, on its own soil?
The American Rifle Association is another lawless, untouchable group that poses a great threat to peaceful co-existence, law and order in America. The indiscriminate sale of firearms and other dangerous weapons promoted by this group can be blamed for the hundreds of thousands of murders committed in America every year by adults and children alike.

America and slavery

The advent of the industrial revolution gave rise to slavery. Raw materials needed in the factories in Europe were available in the Tropical regions of the world, especially in Africa, and in Asia and the Americas. Plantation owners observed that Native Americans died in great numbers after being subjected to hard labour on the plantations. The need for “more resistant” substitutes then arose and Africans were found to be “better suited” for the hard labour in the plantations.

The experience of African slaves in America was not different from those of Native Americans. The latter were promised freedom if they made certain sacrifices, especially during the War of Independence. But once the war was over, the promises were jettisoned and it was business as usual. It is on record that discrimination was practised even in Churches where Blacks were forbidden to seat together with Whites.

The judicial system too, delivered justice based on race. A White man was always right in any contentious issue brought against him by a Blackman. White children were raised and fed with racial hatred. Their parents never taught them to love other Americans who did not look like them. The seed of segregation, division and disrespect on racial lines was thus sown right from the early life of America as a country, and yet Americans “trust in God!”

Following the abolition of slavery, freed slaves were not equipped to start a new life. They roamed the streets. Some of them were able to buy their freedom and started their own businesses. But from time to time White marauders unleashed violence on them and destroyed all their property. Some whites distinguished themselves and came to the assistance of many freed slaves, but these were few and far between. African Americans toiled to build Churches and Schools, but these were also destroyed or burnt down by some white Christians. There were cases as recent as the late 1990s.
In present day America acts of violence, oppression, injustice and murder, etc., are no longer the exclusive preserve of whites. The oppressed of yesterday have joined the new-comers and become oppressors and murderers themselves. But the black race in America bears the greatest burden of race violence and discrimination in America. The victims range from the late Michael Jackson to sitting President Barack Obama, the first Black American to be elected to the White House.

After September 11, 2011 Terrorist Attacks
America has gone through so much politically, militarily, economically and socially. The most recent and most devastating attack on its soil, after the Oklahoma bombing, was the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre on 11th September 20001. The entire world was outraged and rallied behind America in the aftermath of those attacks.

So much has been said and written in support or against President George Bush’s decision to extend his “war on terror” to declaration of war against Iraq instead of concentrating his efforts against terror suspect Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda based in Afghanistan. The world was made to believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but this later proved to be false.

Under George Bush, Americans lived in fear while their President waged wars against Iraq and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The two wars, especially the ill-advised and costly invasion of Iraq made Bush and his Republican (GOP) party very unpopular in America and resulted in untold hardship at home. So after 8 eight years of suffering, Americans decided to vote Obama and his Democrat party into power.

Obama as President
The George Bush presidency also cost America so much international goodwill. In addition, the world economy took a terrible plunge. President Obama, in his inaugural speech, reminded Americans that the task ahead would not be easy and that economic recovery would take some time.
But less than 12 months in office, and faced with the consequences of two costly wars and a depressed economy, Americans are already exhibiting impatience, dissatisfaction and fury against the Obama administration. The Republicans, instead of cooperating, are working at cross purposes with Obama and the Democrats. Flirting with the same Party that plunged them into economic depression, raises the question whether Americans actually know what they want? Or like the BBC noted on its online edition 24 January 2010: “Why do people vote against their own interest?” This is in relation to the Obama administration’s proposed healthcare reform with the same Americans the reform is designed to help describing it as “socialist, godless, a state on the road to a police state.” Why are Americans opposed to their own “Marshall Plan?”

Many are reading racism into the senseless opposition to the Obama presidency and its well-meaning reforms. They see some concerted efforts to ensure that Obama fails so his opponents will say we told you that African Americans are a bunch of incapables. Yet, Obama was elected by Americans of all races, creed and region.
Democracy in America
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the erstwhile President of the United States described democracy as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” America has always portrayed itself as a model of democracy, attaching sacrosanct importance to accountability, honesty and good governance. But in reality America finds it difficult to live by these noble preachments, but instead exhibits the tendency of a country at war with itself. To lead a free world requires exemplary conducts. Profound changes are therefore required in every aspect of life in America to ensure genuine trust in God and true unity.

America should be an exemplary democracy which its founding fathers dreamt of. The present “Democranarchy” – a mixture of democracy and anarchy – is unworthy of the world’s sole super power. Perhaps, the American Constitution requires an amendment to expunge those provisions that encourage excesses of criminal minds, gun totters and murderers. The authorities should seize all weapons in private hands to reduce violent crime in the society and all hate and criminal groups should be disbanded. President Obama represents an epitome of the American dream, and Americans must not kill this dream.

•    Nwaobasi, a retired Nigerian Diplomat, is a language and social development Consultant.

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