Friday, February 20, 2009

Trying a New Trick

It is Friday morning and before I start doing some chores and homework, I want to try using a blog posting from Word… Let's try it.

This is a paper I did recently for my diversity class in Humanities; hope it is not too boring.

Keeping Hope through Trials


    Hope is a treasure belonging to those who seek to build a better world for themselves and society. Hope can be placed in many different ideas and beliefs but still it shares the goal that the Dreamer's dream will come true. In spite of oppression, hatred and war, hope can flourish and bring happiness and peace to those seeking solace.

    Perhaps the most famous dreamer of our time is Marin Luther King, Jr... King mobilized thousands in an effort to help his dream come to fruition on August 28, 1963. In his speech given at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King spoke of his dream of how life in this country could one day become. He recited the words spoken long ago in the establishment of this nation. Each and every man, black and white "would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (King). Those words that inspired King were from the founders of this nation, who in turn were inspired by John Locke, an English philosopher who lived during the late 1600's. One of Locke's well known theories is that we are each born as a blank slate, without any innate tendencies. A blank slate would be one born free from the ideas of hate and bigotry, making his statement apropos for King and the Civil Rights Movement.

        We all live in a country built on the hopes of those who have come before us. Oceans were crossed and mountains were scaled as dreamers pushed forward with their hopes of a better life. In the short story "His Own Society", Gish Jen shares the story of a man who left feudal China to come to America in hope of achieving the American Dream. He quickly purchased a small pancake house, which enabled him to earn a living and support his family. Ironically, he began to practice the same customs in his own restaurant that he fled China to avoid. He would grant special favors to his employees that they did not ask for, and then become dismayed when they did not lavish him with love and loyalty (Jen). This shows that despite moving to a new land with new opportunities, many fall back onto old habits and traditions that are familiar, even if these ways are misunderstood.

    Traditions are not easily broken. We all feel ties to our family and a loyalty to our country. National pride is shown wherever a flag is flown and whenever an anthem is sung. These ties have the potential of dousing the flame of hope in each of us if given too high of a priority in one's life as illustrated by Anzia Yezierska's novel, "The Bread Givers". In this tale we read of a young girl Sara who watches quietly while her father marries off her older sisters. Her older sister Mashah was the prettiest girl in their town. Mashah had hopes to marry for love, her father intervened, and she acquiesced to him rather than follow her own path, killing the dream she had of her own future. In describing her sister's apartment, Sara says; "…the soda with which she had scrubbed the floors clean, and laundered her rags to white, had burned in and eaten the beauty out of her hands" (Yezierska, 147).

Throughout the centuries immigrants entered this land looking to find a "New World" while bringing part of their "Old World" with them. Whether a person has been in this country for 1 minute or 100 years, there are influences that have been passed down to them by their ancestors. We cannot escape the way we were raised just by relocating to another town. Even Sara Smolinsky left everything she knew in the realization of her dream of becoming a teacher. As she studied and progressed, she noted that she still felt like the same girl who was without education. Eventually, as she conquered the hurdle of her poverty and gender to become a college graduate, she came to the knowledge that by expressing herself, she fully realized the dreams of many generations before her. "But I felt the shadow still there, over me. It wasn't just my father, but the generations who made my father whose weight was upon me" (Yezierska, 297).

The penal system is an easy place for a person to lose their hope of a better life. After conviction of a crime, a person can be placed in a world where intimidation and oppression run free. One's hopes and dreams remain as that which cannot be taken away, and even they can dwindle while under incarceration. A façade must be built by those wishing to preserve hope. This façade will consist of a tough face and quick wit mixed in with defiance and anger. By putting up a pretense of indifference, prisoners can closely guard their own dreams. Unfortunately, this does not help the prisoner; rather it only fuels the fire of anger that is also burning in them. "Finally I can no longer hear the sounds of my own weeping… stand up. Straight. Tall. Shoulders back. Chin up. I put the dark glasses on my face and the mantle of hard-ass prisoner on my soul" (Norton, 2679). The hope that they are able to keep has the potential to change their lives for the better, but it must be nourished.

Dr. King saw the importance of freedom and how oppression could kill a man's dreams if allowed. He spoke of raising the bar for his people's own hopes when he said "We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one" (King). This emphasized the importance of having the ability to grow and expand ourselves into what we want, and not simply what the world around us thinks we deserve. He expressed how he could have faith in the unknown by saying; "Go back… knowing somehow this situation can and will be changed" (King).

Kings ability to hold close to his hope was an inspiration to millions and still spreads the seeds of equality around the world. His dream was summed up with these words:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places made plain, and the crooked places made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together (King).

    Our hopes are our dreams and our dreams our hopes. By keeping and sharing them we have the ability to change the present and future. Our greatest hope should be that we will always have a dream. Just as those that came before dreamt of a better world, we too should dream of a land where we can be free to keep our hopes alive.

Works Cited

Jen, Gish. "In the American Society." The Heath Anthology of American Literature. NYC: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991. 3036-3046.

King, Martin Luther. "I Have a Dream." Washington D.C., 28 August 1963.

Norton, Judee. "Norton #59900." The Heath ANthology of American Literature Volume E. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991. 2674-2679.

Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. NYC: Persea Books, Inc., 1925.