'The American Dream': An extinguished flame
The American Dream.
A compelling vision of freedom and individuality.
Where destiny is shaped by proficiency and achievement and remains untouched by the pettifogging barricades of classism and birth.
Where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are every citizen’s birthright.
Where freedom is interpreted as a window of opportunity for individual prosperity and success.
Where upward social mobility is accomplished by dynamism and perseverance in a capitalist society.
And so, the idea of a representative democracy emerged from the cradle of ‘The American Dream’.
James Truslow Adams famously penned down the essence of The American Dream in this memorable extract from his masterpiece, ‘Epic of America’ - “The American Dream is that 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.”
Adam’s avant-garde ambition for his beloved nation was soon crystallised by young dynamism and entrepreneurial leaps. State-of-the-art technologies, like rockets. steamboats, passenger trains, and factory machines took off and thus revolutionised the United States from an agrarian country to an industrial one.
However, this newfound prosperity would encourage U.S. expansion across North America.
How hypocritical and paradoxical indeed that America’s stratagem of expansionism for prosperity should oppose every ideal of its ethos!
‘Americans’ prided themselves on staying isolated from the squalid power struggles and imperialistic quintessence of Europe, and yet, within a century of its independence, the United States ruthlessly waged war against the indigenous people of the continent, ‘The Red Indians’.
This attitude would spread towards international frontiers as well, as the United States set its sights on the Pacific.
Mathew Perry would sail to Japan, establishing diplomatic relations with the Samurai nation, after threatening annexation. The United States would then expand its empire to fifty-nine uninhabited islands in the Pacific. Nicknamed ‘Sea Bird Poop’, these islands provided rich fertilisers for the barren and deficient lands of the mainland.
Liberator or Conqueror, she also succeeded in acquiring a vital land: Cuba. A nation well renowned for its thriving sugar plantations and an important market for American goods.
And so, under the pretensions of freedom and liberty, the United States had an imperialistic and European-like relation with its newly acquired territories. The fundamental rights, so proudly sainted to all US citizens, were withheld from the natives of such territories.
The United States was not reluctant to fully exploit the resources of these lands - all while deeming the slightest notion of representation for its natives as unhinged at best.
By the arrival of the twentieth century, the economy of the United States had surpassed the United Kingdom's to become the world's largest.
The world was taken by storm with the brutal shooting of George Floyd, a coloured man who was fatally shot by the police.
This ripple soon perturbed society and a wave of protests attacking racism soon emerged.
The United States of America is an economic and military giant, a ‘superpower’. And yet ‘white superiority’ still sticks to the United States like catnip.
Racism has been one of the most defining features of the United States.
After all, a gory and bloody war was fought on the ‘racial debacle’. The American Civil War was an undertaking shouldered by the Union to set free all those slaves who had been suppressed by the ‘Cotton State’. The Union referred to them as ‘Our black brothers’.
And yet again it veiled its territorial ambitions as a philanthropic enterprise.
In a turbulent climate of economic crisis, the “cost” of safeguarding the freedom of African Americans became a price the American government was no longer willing to pay.
A period of retrenchment, black voter suppression, Jim Crow segregation, and re-enslavement was coined by white Southerners, as ‘Redemption’.
A worried Frederick Douglass memorably included in his speech -
“You say you have emancipated us. You have, and I thank you for it. You say you have enfranchised us, and I thank you for it. But what is your emancipation? — What is your enfranchisement? What does it all amount to if the black man, after having been made free by the letter of your law, is unable to exercise that freedom, and, after having been freed from the slaveholder’s lash, he is to be subject to the slaveholder’s shotgun?”
The white population, emboldened by the ‘white supremacy ideology’, was aghast at the booming prosperity of the blacks, and thus resulted in revolt.
From the heinous attack on Tulsa, a black refugee, to the lynch mob created after a 19-year-old black man was accused of assaulting a White woman, lucidly demonstrated the failure of the ‘American Dream’.
On the eve of that dreadful night, thousands in the enraged white population would launch an all-out assault on Greenwood with a barrage of rifles, machine guns, torches, and aerial bombings from private planes.
This horrendous rampage continued into the next afternoon and left 10,000 Black Tulsans homeless, with their community burned to nothing but ash and rubble.
Alas, such ‘ethnic cleansing’ violence emerged again and again, leaving in its wake destruction and sorrow.
When one thinks of the United States, one can see the glamourous and posh Manhattan apartments, perhaps a lovely ranch in California.
A land where even the ‘average Joe’ is relatively well off.
It is then, shocking indeed to grasp the appalling statistics; one-sixth of the population survives on a hand-to-mouth existence!
The traditional ‘American Dream’ of hard work, success, and integrity has been replaced by a meaningless manifestation of materialism and consumerism, for some time now.
In today’s society, the ‘American dream’ is a consumerist vision responsible for the ever-increasing inequalities and the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Consumerism, corruption, and greed have all led to increasing levels of inequality in America. The flame of the ‘American Dream’ has now been extinguished by consumerism and materialism.
A vile inheritance bequeathed by colonial and imperialist rule to young America.
The Gilded Age, a golden era of prosperity and wealth paints a rather colourful image.
Alas, beneath its guild lay the malignant patina of corruption.
The Whisky Ring, The Star Route scandal, the Trader Post Scandal, and even Watergate, a series of corruption charges against high-ranking officials, most importantly against the President - Richard Nixon, only reveal the roots of corruption that America has planted.
In the 21st century, The United States has been paralysed by corruption in Trump’s administrative regime. He has flouted all kinds of norms and regulations, starting with his decision not to divest from his business interests while in office.
This action set the stage for an administration marked by placing self-interest and profiteering at the highest levels above the public interest. It culminated in a deadly insurrection that was rooted in the same corrupt ethos. Nowhere on the horizon can one spot the sunshine of the ‘American Dream’.