Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Lie I Never Addressed

So, I had this series of blogs I wrote a few months back called "Great American Lies". In that series I rambled on about various lies built into our culture. It was a good series and got lots of comments. I'm sure not everyone agreed with me and that's what made it fun. It also got me started blogging on a regular basis instead of randomly. I have a few lies that did not make the first series and I will write on them sporadically if nothing else interests me on a given Wednesday. Today I am going to write about the lie that "you can be anything you want to be."

This is a lie that starts at our very core. America is the "Land of Opportunity" and as such, we believe that someone can dream big and make it bigger. The problem with this lie is that it is so very incomplete. In other words, there are LOTS of caveats to this statement. "Want" is not enough. You must identify the small steps to make it to your end result. You must work through the inevitable setbacks. You must gain the skill, education, experience, credentials, friends or whatever to make it to that final goal. In other words, you can't be anything you just "want" to be.

I find it interesting/annoying also that some folks look down on people that arrive at a destination in life because of a friend or family name. Some people do have a better launching platform than others. For some the journey to "what they want to be" is much shorter. One of the beautiful things about this lie is that there is some truth in it, though. It IS possible for someone with nothing to be something spectacular--IF and only IF they are willing to make the sacrifices, do the work, make the connections, take the risk, chart the path and again, do the work to get there. It is absolutely possible for someone raised in poverty to become a brain surgeon or a major politician or whatever. WE OURSELVES make this more difficult by holding onto the lie that all we have to do is "want" to be something.

Then we really mess things up when we look at this lie as a lie but from the wrong angle. What I mean is that some people identify this as a lie by saying, "In America, you can't be anything you want to be because you are _______" and they fill in that blank with anything from a specific race to a specific religion or "not from a certain family" or whatever. They identify this as a lie but they miss what the lie actually is.  The lie is in the statement's incompleteness, it is not actually a lie in and of itself. You CAN be anything you want to be IF you are willing to work for it. Call it a lie of omission.


Daniel said...

It's a matter of perspective, like you said. One can look at this statement as a lie because they perceive the limitations and stop there. Another person can look at this statement and see the possibilities and potential within it, within themselves.

Sure there are obstacles in obtaining any goal. Want isn't enough to obtain anything worth having. It goes much further than a simple desire; it takes determination and commitment to achieve something of merit.

Jonathan said...

and WORK

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