Since the beginning, two narratives have warred for the soul of America. One is the “We’re Number One” America, in which the American Dream is a competition with few winners and others who bask in their reflected glory. This is the America of land grabs, robber barons and get-rich-quick schemes.
The alternative is the story of democracy in which America is a place of cooperative endeavor where people form associations, build schools, congregations, libraries and towns and fight for “liberty and justice for all.”
Harry Boyte, who as a young man served as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s field secretary at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, writes that the first one dominates our discourse and must be countered with the second. He wonders what might be possible if we stopped assessing each other as winners or losers, and fought for a culture of democratic respect that values work and workers, and not just material success.
One side pits winners and losers against each other in a race for the American Dream, while the other wonders what might be possible if we work together to form communities, build schools and create a culture of…