Wednesday, April 10, 2013

1950's Creed

My optometrist downtown got his NH license in 1962. I like him. In one of the exam rooms is a framed statement entitled "My Creed."
I do not choose to be a common person.
It is my right to be uncommon—if I can.
I seek opportunity—not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen,
humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk,
to dream and to build,   
to fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence;
the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade my freedom for beneficence
nor my dignity for a handout.
I will never cower before any master
nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid;
to think and act for myself;
to enjoy the benefit of my creations;
and to face the world boldly
and say:
"This, with God's help, I have done."
It was not merely the font and the presentation, but the sentiment and phrasing that told me it was circa 1950. (That it had been printed up by the Gordon Burns Insurance Agency, just about across the street and a Goffstown fixture for decades, also hinted at that.)  It was the type of declaration that was common in my childhood, showing up in Readers Digest or high school classrooms.  It would not have been considered liberal or conservative, but simply American.  The author, Dean Alfange, was in fact appointed to moderately high political office by both Democratic and Republican politicians, and was a liberal by the standards of our day and his own.  I doubt that any Democrat, and few Republicans, would say this aloud today, though a few might endorse it silently.  Even libertarians might wonder if this "excellent sentiment" might be too controversial to be worth the candle.

I came across it once before in Colorado Springs in the early 90's at the Flying W Ranch, a family-style restaurant where grace was said before the meal.  It was right on the menu there.  I hadn't realised the two were the same until I looked it up tonight, but had remembered that they were similar.

The ground shifts beneath us, and we do not notice.  Alfange was a childhood immigrant, and no one of the era would have found it surprising that an immigrant expressed this American attitude more forcefully than those who were born here.


Sam L. said...

I do not recall seeing that before.

Thank you for printing it.

Earl Wajenberg said...

I don't know. Judging by stuff I see on Facebook and other blogs, Libertarians and Republicans would be just fine with that, and Democrats, while they probably wouldn't post it, might well, in these polarized days, have a reaction like, "Hey, it's not like I'm *against* any of those things.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Earl, I agree that most Americans still subscribe to that sentiment, at least in theory*. But I think it can no longer be said out loud by politicians because of the dishonest followup questions that journalists would pose: "Are you saying that all people on welfare...?" "Does that benefit of my creations mean that you accept that the 1%...?" "Do you really think You Built That? Are you saying President Obama...?" The no-win questions could be composed by a highschool journalist.

The difference is that people would have simply accepted it for what it was 60 years ago, without trying to trap the speaker, because they knew this was part of America's self-definition. Again, that was the theory, and even then we can now see how it was exaggerated. It was a different world.

*Looking for government handouts goes back to the first moments of government existence in America. Think slavery laws, or building railroads and canals.

SJ said...

I must have missed that detail the one time I dined at the Flying W. (Or I was paying too much attention to the narrations about cowboy life, or the music that accompanied the meal...)

It has too simple of a feel to be a statement of the modern age; I agree that if any today would state it, they would append footnotes.

Most interestingly, it is a statement that exalt individual autonomy, wherever that leads. Not autonomy that leads in a particular direction.