Tuesday, April 26, 2005

what dreams may come

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

I've been thinking about this poem a lot lately. I was reading W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folks last week, and there's a line of it I can't get out of my head--describing Atlanta, he writes, "It is a hard thing to live haunted by the ghost of an untrue dream..."

That made me think of Hughes, and also Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous I Have a Dream speech, and the line of Fitzgerald's about Gatsby, "(He) paid a high price, living too long with a single dream."

Du Bois is talking about the "untrue dream" of the confederacy--the untrue dream of white supremacy. But it made me wonder what other untrue dreams our society, our country is haunted by these days.

Is it a "truthful dream" that everyone can get rich, if they just work hard? Is is a "truthful dream" that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed here, regardless of their immigrant status, race, religion, gender, economic class or sexual orientation? I don't think those dreams are truthful. I think they're the untrue dreams that our country is haunted by today. And I think they're leading in an awful lot of instances to the deferred dream of Hughes' poem.

But not always.

• Posted By landismom @ 4/26/2005 02:57:00 PM
Very nice post. Unfortunately I fear that at least half of this country is living not just in an untrue dream but in a total fantasy land. That is especially true on issues like race, poverty, etc.

And people can live in those untrue dreams because they are living in bubbles: physically, in their gated communities and socio-economically segregated neighborhoods; informationally, in the fantasy lands presented as reality by Fox News, CNN and the rest of mainstream media; politically, where the focus of politics is no longer on social justice but on winner-take-all...

If there's hope it's from the fact that lots of people have real dreams that are based on the realities that they are living and striving to achieve.
Great post, BBSP...and I agree with every word. It really does feel sometimes as if we are being sold a bill of goods.

I adore Langston Hughes - my favorite (typed from memory - probably not 100% accurate):

My old man was a white old man
and my old mother's black
If ever I cursed my white old man,
I take my curses back
If ever I cursed my black old mother
and wish she were in hell
I'm sorry for that evil wish
and now I wish her well
My old man died in a fine white house
My maw died in a shack
I wonder where I'm gonna die
being neither white nor black
Chip, I think you are right on about people living in a bubble--although the bubble is made out of a one-way mirror, in my experience. The people living inside it can't see out, but they can be seen from the outside.

Jessica, that's a great one too. I'm amazed by how much of Hughes' work is still so immediately relevant in our country.
Great observation about the one-way mirror lm, I think you're totally right about that one.
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