Saturday, May 31, 2008

The American Melting Pot and The American Dream

A lot can be said about the so-called American "melting pot," the general theory being that people of different cultures come to America and melt into the American 1950's "ideal" family with 2.5 children, a white picket fence around a brand new cookie cutter house, and a dog named Max or Rover or some other American name for a mutt or perhaps a German Shepard or dalmatian.

Of course, the 1950's American Dream comes from an atypical mold. It is impossible for everyone to attain the American Dream because the American Dream as the picture perfect 1950's lifestyle -- with a shiny new family car, ever wise and never rash father figure, docile and obedient wife and children, and a single-income paycheck that will always cover your every need and sometimes a little extra for a gift for the wife and children because they're just so super -- it is ideal for only one member of the family:  the father, traditional and ideal with a sports jacket, loafers, and a shallow, brimmed hat. That's the only person in the atypical "traditional" family that the American Dream really serves.

In fact, the idea behind the "American Dream" is neither American in origin nor a remotely new concept. It stems from the want of an ideal life.  It is a dream life that all who have not wish and desire to attain if they realize that such a thing could even be plausible, regardless of how unlikely. It is for this reason people melt into American culture, perhaps for good reason, to find success. Many times success is found. Many times people are accepted into a culture and into that way of life. They find the path to success and take it.

Others do not make it. And still, others make it for a while and then lose it. Immigrants or natives, it doesn't matter, eventually, there will be someone who doesn't make it because they don't fit into the atypical mold of the American Dream. Maybe it will take a while and they'll successfully run a farm or a business, but then, even two, three or ten generations later, they are not able to secure a place at the table, an economic downturn hits and they are no better off than subsistence, if that, or maybe American society decides to discriminate against them for some reason and they cannot find a job or get a break. Regardless of the reason, they lose the American Dream. They may lose a home or a car; they might not be able to pay for good schools for their kids; they may not be able to pay for food, heat, or health care. And then the dream will have failed them. The promise of a better life will be snatched away, a slap in the face to the hard work of these good people.

But, there's still another group, which up until this point I've only touched upon: Rather than just those who lose the American Dream, there are people that the American Dream, the1950's ideal, does not want. They don't want Blacks. They don't want Muslims. Or gays. Or atheists. Or communists. Or socialists. Or women for that matter. Or any number of groups that hold ideas or genetic material that was seen as evil or bad by conservatives in the 1950's. They wished to make an America in their image, reinforced by Reaganism of the 1980's, a WASP culture, a utopia for those who look and feel and believe like them and them alone. Because their views are tried and true and will always lead them higher up the ladder, further along, the path to success. They will step on the rest and use their toil and labor to elevate themselves and once there expend those who are no longer needed and oppress those who -- once like they themselves were -- are now needed to push higher or drive further along the path to their dream. And in the end, what is that dream for these people but to make it at all costs and by all means necessary.

Those left behind will always lose even if they too desire success. They lose because they are different and their differences can be used as a tool of oppression by others to elevate themselves over them.  And, there is nothing any one person can do about it.

So, America is really two entirely separate melting pots, one of them containing those who have and therefore can fit into the atypical mold for the American Dream and one containing those who have not and for one reason or another cannot be part of that mold.  Those who have hold in common the wealth and 1950's conservatism / 1980's Reaganism and those who have not are gays and atheists and Blacks and Latinos, the inner-city and fringe dwellers who even if born into success know they don't belong but still desire so much for a place at that table that they would change everything they are to be accepted or if this is impossible take down the American elite as much as they can.

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