Saturday, November 01, 2008

American Dream

Want to know what irks me about almost every campaign I've ever seen? It's the idea that there are "average Joes" and "everyday Americans" and "the little man."

In my view, there are people -- and every damn one is a big deal.

That's the point of the United States. And also of the Democratic party.

The combo of this hot hot campaign with today's news of the death of Studs Terkel, the great oral biographer of both rich and poor, brings this to mind.

I'm convinced that any person's potential is greater if we all view her or him as a Big Deal. As a goldmine of possibilities. And take our own powers seriously as well.

I certainly see us as all peers in the matter of success in the writing business. You never know who is taking it up today for the first time, who'll have a bestseller two years from now. Students are ever passing the teacher. It happens all the time.

For example: years ago after publication of my first novel, an ad writer took me to lunch to ask me questions about getting started in fiction. Her name: Jan Karon, astoundingly successful creator of the Mitford novels.

It's just realistic to view each other, and ourselves, as remarkable.

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kenju said...

I'm glad that Jan Karon sought you out! I never thought I'd books like hers, but I've read nearly every one and they strike some sort of chord in me. I guess we never know whom we are going to help and in what way.

billie said...

Peggy, that's a lovely idea.

The thing that irks me is when people in opposing parties (and I confess, it irks me more when Democrats do it, probably b/c that's how I'm registered so it's more personal) make statements about how ignorant the other side is.

We all have the same capacity to be remarkable, even if we affiliate with different parties and come to different conclusions about what will work best for our country.

And how cool about Jan Karon. I had no idea either that I would like her books, but when I read the first one, years back, I got smitten with Mitford and Father Tim.

Debra W said...


I have an intense dislike for politics from all sides of the table, but I have an undying love for people as remarkable human beings.

"I'm convinced that any person's potential is greater if we all view her or him as a Big Deal. As a goldmine of possibilities. And take our own powers seriously as well."

I LOVE this quote, Peggy, and I will refer back to it in the future when I need a boost.


Peggy Payne said...

I think that rather glancing experience with Jan made me permanently aware anyone might be about to blossom hugely in an altogether new way. I pretty much assume that now with everybody.

Some time back I did a radio interview with Jan in which I asked her to read an entire many-page essay about her falling in love with a house that needed restoring. It was so wonderfully evocative. She kept interrupting her reading of it when we taped the show, asking whether I was sure I wanted her to read the whole thing. I was sure!

K.B. said...

I'm from a Chinese family. One of the things that Chinese do (well, largely Chinese women!) that it seems isn't quite as common elsewhere is that for the most part (although I hear from older people that the younger generation are, surprise, not growing up with the same values) you're raised believing that the best way for everyone to get what they need is to spend all your time making sure other people get what they need - the theory is that they'll be doing the same for you.

We argue (loudly) over who gets to pay the bill when going out to eat. We compete to find the best present for a loved one. We surprise each other with things like spa days or little treats to eat.

It took me forever to figure out why I was always being taken advantage of once I left the family home!

Peggy Payne said...

Interesting, I hadn't realized that was more true of Chinese culture. My parents are/were like that. Nobody can get the dinner check away from my mom.

K.B. said...

My oldest aunt is famous for going out with her friends for lunch and they all stand up and literally scream at each other over who gets to pay the bill.

The only person I know of who dares to argue with my aunt about the dinner bill is my cousin. :)

Bill Olympics is a fav sport in my family with my sisters, though. They once flipped my credit card off the table and put a foot over it while looking innocent, so they could pay a bill...and my ex still chortles through the tale of when my sisters scooped him for the check for a solid week, and when he finally got hold of one, he'd left his wallet back at the I had to pay it. *snort*

Peggy Payne said...

Oh, this is good. "Bill Olympics" has just become a part of my family's jargon.

K.B. said...

My fav trick is to "visit the powder room" at any point at all during a meal, and giving a credit card to the waiter/waitress. That way the bill doesn't even come to the table.

It only once nearly backfired when the waitress left halfway through the meal, as her shift had ended...luckily I caught her at the door with my credit card still tucked safely in her pocket..."luckily" because I was due to fly out of Heathrow the next morning! :)

Peggy Payne said...

That's a cautionary tale.

I once went out to a fancy celebratory dinner with a bunch of modestly-incomed writers.

Out on the pavement afterwards, we engaged in a group hug, and then discovered that the wait was patiently waiting beside us to tell us that the pile of money we'd left was $50 short.

A reverse of the check grab.

K.B. said...

I remember once having to cough up $75 (as a very poor theatre sort) because I was the only one left when a group of 20 people left a restaurant... The good old days? Keep 'em. :D

Peggy Payne said...

These are the good new days.