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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/27/10

Two American Dreams: Which One Is Your Priority?

Follow Me on Twitter     Message Bob Johnson
Today the common assumption is that the American dream is home ownership and a successful career. Some would go beyond that and say it is to get wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. However, in the days of the American Revolution the American dream was different. Claude-Anne Lopez, a historian and expert on Benjamin Franklin and the editor of Yale University 's The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, said that in Ben Franklin's day, the American dream was not owning a house with a two car garage, two luxury cars and a microwave; it was truth, justice and liberty. It was true progress. Americans have indeed gone from wanting principles to principally wanting material things. To demonstrate this sad current condition, ask yourself how many people you know who would sacrifice their comfort, their homes, their careers and income and their very lives for an ideal?

As we've individually put our principles behind us in order to secure a good career and the material things that go with it, society has crumbled. We have forgotten the warning from the Irishman John Philpot Curran: "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

More instruction comes to us from Thomas Jefferson. It was as if he knew human nature so well he actually predicted America's future. He wrote, "They will forget" (about their rights) "themselves but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights."

The cost of progress is high. America 's founders risked everything they had to wage war against their government and to create a more progressive republic. Many of our founders were wealthy, established leaders in society. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington were all very well off and financially secure in 1776. By today's greed-based standards, they'd be considered to be on the lunatic fringe. They and their families had everything they needed under the established system, yet they wanted to destroy that system and replace it with a progressive one, the benefits of which touched the lives of many more people. By waging war against the government, they not only risked losing all of their income and wealth, they risked losing their very lives. If they failed, they would at best be hanged as traitors to the government; at worst, they would be hanged until close to death and then drawn and quartered. Not many people in today's money and material-driven society would choose all those risks over material comfort, but thankfully, the Founders did.

Another example for all of us is Thomas Paine. His altruism is similar to that mentioned above. However, Thomas Paine was born poor, not rich. After he made his way to America with Ben Franklin's help, he came into a lot of money by writing Common Sense. This was the first significant amount of money he ever had in his entire life. What did he do with it? He gave it away to the American Revolutionary cause! To Paine and to all who made the American Revolution a success, principles took precedence over profits.

One largely overlooked fact about the instigators and leaders of the American Revolution is that many of them were not Christians but were Deists. That is, they believed in God based on the application of their God-given reason on the designs in Nature. They believed the designs presupposed a Designer, or, as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "Nature's God." And the use of their reason made them reject the "revealed" religions, including Christianity. Therefore, they did not believe in the Bible teaching at Romans 13:1-7 that we should obey the "powers that be" out of fear and that anyone who was not obedient to the government would be damned by God. Also, Christianity's appeal to greed and fear, get eternal life by believing in Christianity or spend eternity burning in Hell, was nowhere to be found in their Deism.

As the economy continues to get worse, more and more people who've focused their lives and reason for being on their careers and material gain will no longer have those keys to their lives. They will be, and are being, swept away by the economic depression we are in the first phase of. This can be a profound opportunity for them. A wake up call for them and for millions more who will soon find themselves in the same economic boat. A wake up call to get their priorities right and replace the empty and destructive and selfish American dream with the original American dream which is based on principles and which brought so much true progress to the world.
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Bob Johnson is a paralegal and a freelance writer in Florida. He was raised Roman Catholic, but after reading Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, he became a Deist. In 1993 he founded the World Union of Deists and in 1996 he launched the first web (more...)
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