“What’s the value of dreaming in an unjust life?” asks a 17-year-old to his puzzled mother. Granted, he hasn’t had it easy, with a father who lost interest in him early on in their relationship, a single mother who works long hours to barely make ends meet and his grandma gravely ill. Tony could be forgiven for not believing that high grades will get him a scholarship, that years of study will parlay into a better future than the circumstances he was born in. Just another Latino kid who used to dream to become a CEO, in the midst of hormonal battles and mild depression, growing up to lose the stars in his eyes because what he sees around him doesn’t warrant his hopes. There are very many of them in this city.
His mother’s eyes fill with tears as she pours her heart out – her son stopped saying “Mom, I will buy you a house one day and you won’t have to work so hard”. He doesn’t believe in the Grimm Brothers anymore nor in a better future. What happened to the land of hopes and dreams? To the wild frontier of old where anything was possible? Twenty years have gone by since the Rodney King’s riots and this city has achieved a racial integration previously thought impossible, only to deliver our youths to a landscape devoid of jobs, of affordable higher education and impossibly high rents.
My instinct would be to tell Tony that dreams are cheap because everyone should be able to afford them. That he should be dreaming big, bigger than his imagination will allow him – it’s not necessarily reaching that goal that matters, but initiating the process. Dreams transform themselves over time and land us in places and situations we could have not imagined. But do I really have a right to encourage such dreaming? I would still like to think so. Without big dreams, imagination and perseverance Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela and all those who did and still work to make the world a better place wouldn’t have initiated the process that did, and will, indeed change this wonky world of ours.