"A Nation of Grinders," by David Brooks, is the essay I discussed with my composition classes today at Yavapai College. Though the essay was written in 2003, it applies so well to the situation in our country today. Brooks says that we ought to adopt Lincoln as "the defining capitalist figure for our age," not because he was president during one of the most challenging eras in US History, but because he worked hard to move himself from extreme poverty to a level of success before he became president.
Brooks gives several examples of the ethics of hard work, citing companies like Walgreens and Kroger who have consistently outscored even the big dot coms on Wall Street. The language of those companies includes words like 'disciplined," "determined," "accountable," and "responsible." What if all of us decided to be disciplined, determined, accountable, and responsible? Now, that's a thought!
So many of us have these grand ideas of great riches in store for us, and, when they don't materialize, we see ourselves as failures and just give up. Isn't that what's happened all across this country? We've given up on a large scale, content to let the government's lies about the inability of people to move up in the world convince us to sit on our behinds and let the 'nanny state' (thanks Hannity!) take care of us by stealing from the rich. Of course part of the draw of this irresponsible state of mind is the media's portrayal of the rich as Paris Hilton's--squandering money they didn't work for--instead of the true picture of the vast majority of the wealthy who worked hard and are still working hard for their money, saving instead of spending, and basically being role models for what the rest of us could achieve if we just decided to take responsibility.
Yes, what if we clung to Brooks' example--that Lincoln who worked hard and rose above his circumstances by believing in the moral responsibility of every person to improve him/herself? What if we saw the rich not as thieves, but as hard-working people deserving of their success? Would we not be happier by far? Would we not see the fruits of our own labor? Maybe not overnight, but, as Brooks says, over decades and generations, we would see ourselves rising above our current circumstances. Isn't that, after all, what the American dream is all about?