The American Dream

A slight continuation from yesterdays post…

What is the American Dream? It is one of the things that American’s are always talking about, always bragging about. A cornerstone of our democracy, one of the things that sets us apart from everyone else in the world. Here is my definition of the American Dream. It is the ability for someone to come to this country, either born as a natural citizen or as an immigrant, to start out with nothing and through hard work and by playing by the rules is able to build a good life for themselves and their family. The idea is that each successive generation will build on that success and consecutively do better. This dream has been fulfilled by many, many people, but it is getting harder and harder.

There is a lot of talk about the idea of returning to the former glory of America. Activists on the right, notably the Tea Party movement, are bent on the idea that we are going in the wrong direction and that in order to correct this, we must somehow return to the values and believes of the Founders. Numerous Tea Party activists and politicians support and espouse these beliefs, including the infamous Sarah Palin.

The problem with the idea of this “return to glory” is that America was never the great, all mighty, all compassionate, glorious nation that they idealize. The United States was built on the backs of slaves and the ever expanding desecration and genocide of millions of Natives. The Founding Fathers were content to say that the Black slaves counted as only 3/5 of a person and denied women the right to vote. This country has a long, long history of suffering and intolerance and injustice. And that history is very recent, and in too many cases, still in the making. The civil rights movement isn’t ancient history, you don’t have to go back too far in time to find people lynching African Americans for no other reason than the color of their skin, it wasn’t that long ago when large groups of men and women marched in the streets with white robes and hoods, proclaiming their desire to “take back their country!”

Of course, the United States was able to overcome a lot of these issues. It took decades, even centuries, but we have arguably come a long way. But ignorance and intolerance is still rampant. There is still racism, there is fear and violence propagated out of the fear of Islam and Arab-Americans, there is hatred and violence born out of homophobia and immigration. We are far from perfect, and we have been a lot farther. We should not be looking back in time for some mythic American golden age, we should be looking to progress and become better people, we should be looking forward to making things better for everybody. We should want to make this a safer place to settle down and raise families, we should be disturbed by the fact that since the 1980’s the richest 1% of Americans control 42% of the nations wealth, we should be angered by the hideous torture and lies enacted by our government all over the world, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Guantanamo.

 

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