Hard Knocks

In any reality television show there is one individual who is overcoming some type of hardship. I don’t mean to trivialize the realities, but entertainment has desensitized the gravitas of those trials: someone’s parent was just (coincidentally) diagnosed with a terminal cancer, someone’s parent just (coincidentally) passed away, someone just became homeless, someone just (coincidentally) found their long lost sibling or parent. Like I said, I don’t want to trivialize those realities. They happen. They’re real. It’s reality tv. I think I just hate the tv part.

I was watching So You Think You Can Dance one evening, and one of the contestants told his story. He was kicked out of his house at 15 years old, started hustling on the street, and then involved himself in dancing when one of his relatives gave him the chance. His audition was so entertaining. He’s a bboy and was killing the stage with his energy. But, of course, my mind started to wander elsewhere.

We love to hear these rags-to-riches stories, overcoming the hard knock life. The Bible, in some fashion, is a modulation of that schema. It’s a story tucked away in the human archetype. However, I want to question our affinity for those stories. We take an interesting pride in those stories, especially as a nation. America is the land where you can achieve that greatness no matter where you come from. But why do people have to start that way in the first place?

Maybe we don’t celebrate the actual rags-to-riches story as much as we celebrate the character it demonstrates. Maybe we celebrate the demonstration of overcoming adversity. In that case, I am in full concurrence. I admire people that can overcome adversity. I do not admire, however, celebrating that story as something a country will allow you. Overcoming the odds is not something America can do; it is something that individuals do. America is proud that these persons overcame the odds, but I think we should question whether America is placing them in those odds in the first place.

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