Don Quixote, that’s me, The Man of LaMancha. Tilting at Windmills. Dreaming the impossible dream. I was in high school when I played in the pit for the musical version of Don Quixote. The themes of the story really made an impact on me. I guess I have always been a dreamer. Now I am dreaming about an end to inequality.
Today I am tilting at the windmill of inequality and poverty and asking myself what can I do to make a difference. My brother had this crazy idea to go all in on the creation of a new company, really a movement called The One Union. We realized that the epic inequality in America will continue to grow without some kind of intervention or disruption in the system. So I quit my job as a college professor of music and joined him in this endeavor to create a disruption resulting in a more equal sharing of our nation’s prosperity. I had devoted my whole adult life to becoming the best musician and teacher I could be but was running out of steam. It was time for a change so I quit my job and moved 1000 miles to begin work at The One Union. I know a lot of people thought I was crazy. I gave up a job as a tenured, full professor to begin an uncertain adventure whose success is dependent on millions of people saying enough is enough and joining our movement, The One Union.
The American Dream
I recently viewed a series of photos by Ian Brown titled American Dreams featuring people all across America accompanied by their definition of the American dream. As one would expect, the answers varied greatly depending on the person’s situation and life experiences. Here are a few excerpts from their responses:
The American Dream means….
- to have an education and escape poverty
- to be able to raise children in a safe environment free from pollutants
- for all to realize that they are more than they are conditioned to believe
- that everyone could live in a society where liberty and justice for all is a fact and not just the last words in the Pledge of Allegiance
- love and acceptance are the norms. Hate and fear are only a bad dream.
- that all poor and exploited people will band together to create a better life
- everyone will have access to affordable housing, healthcare, education, clean water, and nutritious food.
- to give our children more than we had so that they can do the same, and leave the world better than we found it.
The Pursuit of Happiness
I often think of the following statement from the Declaration of Independence in considering the meaning of the American Dream, an idea that is not present in our founding documents, but prominent in our country’s belief system.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.”
Read the full text of the Declaration of Independence at ushistory.org.
The Wikipedia article about this phrase from the Declaration of Independence points out that in 1776 the meaning of “happiness” may have been prosperity, thriving, and wellbeing. In our capitalism dominated society, the common definition of happiness seems to be the accumulation of great wealth. Study after study tells us that the accumulation of wealth and material things will not make us happy, yet for the most part, we continue on the same path. To prosper and thrive in our society, people need to earn a living wage, have access to affordable housing and healthcare, affordable food, and have adequate leisure time to spend time with family and friends. Currently, 41 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. 41 million Americans who are not prospering and thriving.
Can we all agree that this is not acceptable? That we, as a nation, are better than this? This is the windmill that I will attack. Through words and action. I will do it alone, but our chances of achieving real change are vastly improved if we band together. Will you join me?