I have three young daughters at home, and as any of you in that situation will know, that means I watch an average of 84 princess movies per week. Ive seen more damsels in distress rescued by knights in shining armor who live happily-ever-after than I can count.
By JEFF BOWLES
Special to The Star
But fairy tales arent just popular with little girls. Most Americans love a rags-to-riches story. Maybe its a product of our heritage; the rugged individualist, the pioneer, the immigrant arriving at Staten Island, all striking out on their own to find success.
But lets be honest, for every fairy-tale ending there are many thousands of us of who live our lives simply doing the best we can with the hand weve been dealt in life.
Certainly some can take credit for overcoming incredible obstacles in pursuit of the American dream, and good for them. But for every truly amazing accomplishment there are entirely too many others taking credit where credit isnt due.
Over the last decade it seems like a growing portion of our population has forgotten that when they were born they were dealt a few cards, cards they had no control over, that would have an enormous effect on their lives.
Being born into a family with two parents, for example, or growing up middle class with the option to attend good schools and never having to go hungry. Rather, theyve convinced themselves that their station in life is wholly a result of their own hard work, intelligence and character and that all of us start out our lives with the same equal chance at success.
Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer might have summed it up best when he said that some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.
Overinflated egos aside, the real problem with this thinking is that its inherently binary. If success is the result of an individuals hard work, intelligence and character alone, then it must be that the less fortunate are lazy, less intelligent and inferior.
We see this fallacy growing and dividing us daily. The steady string of Facebook posts featuring some variation of the phrase, If you can afford a cellphone then you dont need food stamps! The prejudice that employers have toward the long-term unemployed is as if something must be wrong with them. A third example is the classification of Americans by their elected leaders as either makers or takers.
The social compact that helped America grow into what it is today took for granted that Americans understood that were it not for one or two details in life over which they had no control, they could easily have wound up in different circumstances. And throughout our history we treated each other accordingly and created a country that lent a hand to those in need.
But that sentiment seems to be changing as more and more we hear the self-righteous condemn the less fortunate and the rich complain about the poor.
Now Im not a fatalist. I dont believe our lives are all a product of random circumstance. I know that hard work, creativity and intelligence go a long way toward determining our futures. But theyre only one part of the equation.
We each should feel proud of what weve accomplished while acknowledging the luck in our lives, and try to empathize with the hardships and challenges faced by others. Because after all, there, but for the grace of God, go us all.
Jeff Bowles of Kansas City owns a marketing and promotions company. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.