American Heroes in the Poker Game of Life
©2022 by Vernon Miles Kerr, and VernonMilesKerr.com
There’s a common saying, here in America, often said when faced with a challenge which carries some unfortunate negative baggage,
“Ya hafta play the cards that y’er dealt”
We Americans love a “rags-to-riches” story, maybe because it enforces our national myths about America as being, “The Land of Opportunity.” People such as George Washinton, the putative “Father of our Country,” who arose to rather local power and fame from a boyhood of privilege, are not as highly revered as those like Benjamin Franklin, the de facto father of our country, who arose to international fame, high-regard and diplomatic power, from a boyhood of poverty. (Yes, of course there are the recent non-heroic, negative-examples of those who squandered a privileged, wealthy launching on their own self aggrandizement—but that’s a subject for a completely different essay.)
No, we legitimately love the tales of men like Franklin, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket. And, yes, their stories are indeed worth using as a guiding light for American youth; but, let’s face it: There are no greater American Heroes than those who carried the additional negative baggage of racial prejudice.
How about the great Native American, Olympic Champion, Jim Thorpe, or the great African American composer Scott Joplin? How about our black hero, Jackie Robinson’s suffering fussilades of jeers and even thrown objects, as he broke the color-barrier on the American Baseball field? How about our African American female heroes, like Sounourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks, or the NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson?
I’m unfamiliar with the childhood of the African American Astronomer, Neil deGrasse Tyson nor that of Katherine Johnson, but no matter the economic level of their families nor the demographics of the neighborhoods in which they grew up, both were still dealt “the race card.” How they effecively played the hand into which it was dealt, is the point. Their examples, and those of so many other great American black, brown and red people in science are the point.
Not that our successful minorities say anything at all about the “Land of Opportunity” myth: the fact that they prevailed is solely to their credit and to that of the human spirit, in general. If those people “overcame” irrespective of an excessively unfair hand dealt in life’s poker game, how much more should we, the non-minority citizens, be able to handle whatever poker hand of phyical, mental, financial or familial burdens that we are dealt?