January 28, 2023

The Right to Rise- Statement of the Year

Layaway Santa for the layaway life

The Right to Rise deserves to be the statement of the year. There isn’t a Right to Rise Department in the nation’s capital or anywhere else in the world. No statues. No scholarly work on college campuses. The meaning and power of right to rise isn’t found on paper, a nice office, inflated job title. The pursuit of happiness is in the Constitution but it’s not the same. Maryland professor and Brookings scholar Carol Graham‘s The Pursuit of Happiness has just been published. The Census might include happiness metrics with questions like how much did you smile yesterday, did you feel real happy yesterday, do you like your cable system? I threw in the last one.

The Right to Rise is the spiritual version of pursuit of happiness. The human spirit can go higher than even the cable bill.

Another dictator falls. This one dead in North Korea of natural causes. It’s been a bad year for the statue business, with all the tyrants going down. They love their statues and posters of themselves. Think back to all of those statues and posters of Saddam. When special forces soldiers found him hiding in a hole, they needed to look at the tattoo on his hand to identify him for certain. Osama got the same ID treatment when killed. I suppose when you die, the vanity like everything else in the material world, is left behind.

Jeb Bush, writing in the Wall Street Journal, explains how the government here is using legislation to deny the right to rise. Elsewhere, the means are much more violent. There’s a reason why Putin reacted so strongly to John McCain’s words. What goes around comes around. Putin wrecked a lot of lives to get into the Kremlin. Millions of Russians have been denied the right to rise. The country suffers now from a “demographic winter.” Putin knows what’s coming.

Political strategist Pat Caddell examined the political polls and describes the results as a pre-revolutionary moment. Here, not in Russia or the Middle East, or even China.

The Right to Rise has competition for the statement of the year. Layaway Santa is heard a lot. I watched a mother the other day counting and calculating her money for several minutes. She kept running the numbers in her head. She wasn’t certain she could afford it. What she considered buying had a sticker price of less than five dollars. Another mother got a phone call while standing next to me in a public place and kept apologizing to whoever called her that she had the money and wasn’t trying to run from them. Just that money was tight. She really needed cash. But she had the cash for them. She assured them. She handled it better than the mother asking for a break in paying for gas. The minimum wage clerk, probably using a layaway Santa herself, refused and the mother ran crying past us out the gas station, driving off with her child in the car. People would have helped her but even that’s getting more cynical as con artists exploit the charitable feeling at Christmas. Secret Santas are helping out, paying for the Christmas presents purchased on layaway.

The Right to Rise isn’t something to be purchased on layaway. Buying a life has become the American way, even if it means placing the life on layaway. If the price is too high, you can get a statue on closeout in North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and perhaps Russia in an after Christmas sale. The Right to Rise movement has an anthem- “Amazing Grace.”  Rhema Marvanne, all of seven years old, sings it here. John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” after turning against the slave trade in the mid 1700s.

Rhema Marvanne singing" Amazing Grace"

The wretched have the right to rise.

Some of the best people and works of art came from the most wretched of circumstances. The great Russian writer Dostoyevsky was arrested and put through a mock execution. He suffered in horrible conditions. In the pursuit of happiness era writers today are judged quickly. Often by the first sentence. All the entertainment options have made people impatient and spoiled. Dostoyevsky’s first sentence was to himself in prison. He scratched a cross in the dirt, a symbol of the determination in his heart for his right to rise, which he did when finally freed. There hasn’t been Christmas book written in years, if ever, that can even belong on the same shelf with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. His wretched circumstances led to greatness.

Some of the best Christmas memories came from the harshest circumstances. My grandmother losing everything in the Great Depression, including her husband, as my mother was born- on Christmas day. Throughout the Great Depression the Christmas present was a book. She went to work and back to school. She seized on her right to rise regardless of the environment, becoming an English professor. A friend suffering from alcoholism, finding a rose on the doorstep Christmas morning, placed there by a secret Santa.

Brookings scholar Carol Graham says that legislation can’t be written to enforce happiness. Good. The world needs more greatness, not happiness.


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