The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a novel whose veracity actually became a topic of federal investigation, provides another interesting example of the complex relation between fact and fiction and….
American Dream or Nightmare?
To understand the American dream it’s easiest to look back in history at how great historical movements created and shaped the American dream idea. For starters a long time ago around the 30’s, James Truslow Adams, a popular historian, was putting the final touches on the preface to his latest book. It was an interesting time in the life of our nation. Though the crash of 1929 had signaled the beginning of the Great Depression that was to be endured for years to come, there was also a spirit of progress, of possibility.
On the day Adams was finishing his manuscript, President Herbert turned on the lights of the newly opened Empire State Building. High hopes amid hard times: the moment matched Adams’ thesis in his book, “The Epic of America” (Meacham 1-4). A history of the nation that was to spread a term not yet in the general lingo in those last years of the reigns of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. Adams’ subject, he wrote, was “that American dream of a better, richer, and happier life for all our citizens of every rank which is the greatest contribution we have as yet made to the thought and welfare of the world. , (Meacham 1-4). It was not a new thing, this abiding belief that tomorrow would be better than today. “That dream or hope” (Meacham 1-4). There is no single definition of the American Dream. Different people in the US have a different perception of the idea of American Dream. The history of American Civil War helps people understand the two different views regarding the American Dream. All thirteen colonies of the pre-independence era fought together against the British forces. By the end of the American Revolution however, things had changed.
The southern colonies had different views which didn’t match with those of the northern states. The northern states were against the tradition of slavery and wanted a federal government to rule the nation. They also favored the growth of industries in America. Southern states on the other hand, wanted a sovereign state for them; they also supported the system of slavery which provided them with cheap labor. Interests of these states lied more in the area of agricultural development as against industrial growth. These clashes and differences in opinions eventually culminated into the Civil War.
Today, many Americans have lost their faith in the idea of the American Dream. Again John Muller’s ideas from “Capitalism, Peace, and the Historical Movement of Ideas”, talks about a great point about the US Government. “Imperialist policies of the US Government more than the economic crisis are responsible for the occurrence of this situation. Interestingly, the efforts of USA to establish superiority over other countries were perceived as a part of the American Dream by many” (Mueller 169-184). James Field JR. explains the history of war from his book “History of United States Naval Operations: Korea”.
After the formation of Canada, there was no territory left in North America for the US to expand. Thus, the US turned to the east and supported South Korea against North Korea in its effort to weaken China’s influence in the region. After helping South Korea in regaining its territory from North Korea, the US decided to invade North Korea. Chinese authorities warned them against taking any such steps. However, the tensions between these countries rose and eventually the Korean War broke out. A 200,000 strong Chinese army attacked the UN (United Nations) forces which supported the US.
Fearing the intervention of USSR, the UN forces retreated back to the south. James Field JR. goes on to conclude “The reason behind citing these instances is that, in the process of asserting itself as a superpower, America went so far as to suppress the weaker nations. The imperialistic policies of this country have therefore, acted against the very essence of the American Dream i. e. Liberty/freedom. In order for the American Dream to exist and thrive, the US should not only strengthen its economy, but also act as a responsible nation. ” This is why the American Dream has and never will be feasible.
The Idea of the American Dream has become so prevalent in today’s motto and goals that it is literally ruining people lives. People line up at the proverbial starting line and originate a pissing contest in an attempt to attain degrees, cars and houses at an unreasonable debt, get jobs that we loathe, and max out our credit cards along the way. In the midst of this survival battle, people are keeping their eyes toward what they were all told about attaining the “dream” that includes a home, family, and acquiring as many things as we can.
So why is the American dream so important to everyone if there is no such thing as it? The first myth that America obtains as a nation is that anybody can succeed with hard work. For everyone to succeed with hard work, that would require equality of opportunity, which does not exist because opportunity differs based on class and status. The American dream justifies inequality based on social class by your position in class as a fair reflection of what you deserve. Justifying inequality based on ascribed status attributes inequality to a personal trial or defiance in the minority group.
James Tueslow Adams states that the American Dream is a dream of a land in which “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. ” Too many of us have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
The United States has always been considered a land of equal opportunities. People from all over the world have migrated to the US, mainly in search of employment and freedom of religion. However, there are many factors responsible for making America a sought-after destination in order to lead a prosperous life. The United States is a nation where the ‘individual’, rather than collective population attains ‘center-stage’ in the process of devising policies, making changes, taking up developmental initiatives, etc. Alperovitz, and Thomas 18-23) The youth from the Third World nations have always found USA to be attractive; for them, the socioeconomic conditions back home are in contrast with those found in America. The freedom which can be experienced in America is nowhere to be found. However, there is also a darker side to the American society which needs to be understood. The American Dream has been flawed by social evils like slavery, racism and recently by the grand policies of its government.
John Mueller author of “Captialism, Peace, and the Histroical Movement of Ideas” writes that, the promissory note of ‘all men are created equal’ in the Declaration of Independence was rendered meaningless when Negroes were used as slaves (Mueller 169-184). Just like any other nation, America too has its limitations. In order for the American Dream to exist, it’s a necessity to eliminate these social evils prevalent in the American society. The second myth for the American Dream to exist is that free capitalism is the growing achievement of our democracy. For example Fair employment.