The Land of Opportunity

Jan 26, 2008 by

Some time back, say twenty or so years ago, when I was a scrambling bureaucrat hopping from meeting to seminar, i began to notice the increasing ubiquity of a word from my youth in poor, rural bayou country. Opportunity.

I knew that word well. It was a favorite of my parents’. my dad had a GED. My mom had a third-grade education. They weren’t stupid, they were pretty sharp. They just hadn’t lived in a time when there were many opportunities open to them. Or, I should say, the opportunities available to them in their youth were not the same that were being made available to me in my era. Then, America really seemed to be the land of that word. It was the promise our nation made to the rest of the world.

If you were a girl, any girl, you could grow up to be a teacher or a nurse. If you were a boy, any boy, you could certainly aspire to be a doctor. Or even the President of the United States.

Opportunity belonged, not only to the poor, but to all of us back then.

But, twenty or so years ago, I began to hear that word from politicians around the country and cabinet secretaries in Baton Rouge. Just as surely as you can expect to hear rap and hip hop blaring from the Greek houses and BMW’s along every university’s fraternity row, now we’re hearing opportunity dripping from the lips of the oligarchs.

Corporate America had usurped the word to defend it’s desire to consume and possess. With the rise of the Republican Party and what it has come to represent since divesting itself of its Ur-values of true conservatism, fiscal and personal assumption of responsibilities, and so on, the word has seeped into government, as well.

Today, opportunity‘s main definition means to make the best of a bad situation. But not for the many, rather, for the few. It’s original meaning has been delegated to second or third place.

I’m thinking of this this morning because of a news article I stumbled upon.

The state of Mississippi is going to divert $600 million in hurricane housing relief to a port expansion project. The Federal government has approved it.

That’s opportunity in this new century.

God bless America, land of the moneyed few.


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