Posted by Barney on June 09, 2003
In Reply to: American Dream posted by S. Ryan on June 09, 2003
: : : : : : : : : : : : : Is there a consensus on the meaning of American dream? What do most people think it means?
: : : : : : : : : : : : Like most expressions of this kind it means exactly what the politician who utters it says it means but, in truth, it is meaningless jingoism.
: : : : : : : : : : : What it actually means is the ability for one generation - especially of immigrants - to rise within society to be significantly better off than the last in terms of education, opportunity and prosperity. It is sometimes confused with home ownership, which has been its most potent symbol since the housing boom after second world war. I couldn't find the origin of the term but I'd be very interested to know.
: : : : : : : : : : : I must disagree the our cantankerous friend above however, when he says dismisses it as mindless jingoism. Though the term is certainly abused by politicians, near and far, and American society is not perfect by any means, I think the aspiration for a better life for oneself and ones children is far more progressive in a universal sense than the deference and cronieism typical of societies which make a virtue of knowing ones place.
: : : : : : : : : I take issue with the idea that the American dream is "meaningless jingoism."
: : : : : : : : : Before I looked this up, I gave some thought about what the expression means to me. Most Americans have the opportunity for achievement (and happiness) through their own hard work. We've all got a shot at the good life.
: : : : : : : : : One reference has a long section on the phrase. It part it says:
: : : : : : : : : AMERICAN DREAM - "the ideal of freedom and opportunity that motivated the Founding Fathers; the spiritual strength of the nation.In 1893 Katherine Lee Bates wrote in 'America the Beautiful of a 'patriot dream that sees beyond the years.' In 1960 the poet Archibald MacLeish, debating 'national purpose,' said: 'There are those, I know, who will reply that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right, It is. It is the American dream.' The American Dream, to some, stresses opportunity. The phrase defies definition as much as it invites discussion. As a force behind government philosophy, it seems to be interpreted by most users as a combination of freedom and opportunity with growing overtones of social justice." From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).
: : : : : : : : If you travel in the Middle East, you will often hear variations on the theme: "Americans get out! Go home! (And take me with you.)"
: : : : : : : I am an American of 65 years and I go with "meaningless jingoism." or perhaps just "jingoism" would be better as it implies "yea, horray, OK..".
: : : : : : I am sorry you feel that way.
: : : : : "Jingoism" is not accurate. Granted, the current government
in Washington is jingoistic, but this "let's go beat up a small
nation to get re-elected" is relatively recent. The phrase American
Dream is older, and speaks to the ideals of freedom, empowerment,
: : : : : unlimited possibility. Of course, this could be, and often was, an illusion. The immigrant's dream. Contrary to myth, the majority of European immigrants to America in the great wave of 1880-1915 did NOT intend to stay. They wanted to make some money and return home in a few years. But they did make money, advance, buy homes, send their kids to school (to become "Americanized") and in general, get seduced by the American Dream. Our idealized, non-cynical view of ourselves is currently being tarnished by our moron President, but the national bullying is only temporary. We hope.
: : : :
: : : : I'm not well know for being cantankerous but from the comments above it would appear that I'm entering a new phase in my life.
: : : It is Sunday so I'm going to preach:
: : : I am a civil servant -- meaning I'm a government worker who isn't a political appointee. I have, unfortunately, got a close up look at who gets elected to office in the U.S. And, folks, it ain't pretty. There are a few good guys and gals. But we have people in office who are dumber than owl sh*t.
: : : The problem is, the average person does not vote and "special interests" decide who our leaders will be. In the primary election for governor in my state, 20 percent of registered voters actually voted. People are more interested in "American Idol" than the American president.
: : : What I tell my children when they complain about what's wrong with America, register to vote, educate yourself on the candidates and the issues, and VOTE.
: : I've hear it said that America has the finest democracy that money can buy. This is, I guess, a step up from all those other countries where democracy is delivered down the barrel of a gun.
: What I truly love about this forum is illustrated above. One simple question can, as we say, stir up the pot! I am an immigrant who has enjoyed American life and its people. This country is not Eutopia, but neither is it Hell. It is simply a place where people can live their lives in spite of what their government does to them.
The American who said it to me - that the US had the best democracy that money could buy (I'm sure it was not his original thought) - was a guy from Boston who was waiting with his wife in the queue for the 'Strangers Gallery' outside the Houses of Parliament (in London England for the un-travelled) hoping to get a seat to hear the final debate on whether or not the UK should join in the invasion of Iraq. It was a great debate, with lots of fine speeches - and some not so fine - and I remained rooted to my seat from 1:30 in the afternoon till the final vote PM. My Boston friend and his wife stayed for about three hours and I think they enjoyed the experience. We had two protesters in the Gallery towards the end of the debate but their shouts of protest went unreported by the media and they were picked up and gently carried out by the unarmed staff who, every day, watch over the visitors in the Gallery and, when necessary, remind them of the rules of the House and firmly evict any who don't respect said rules. As a visitor to the Strangers Gallery - where they don't charge an entry fee -, you exit Parliament through Westminster Hall - one of the oldest parts of the Palace of Westminster -, where Parliamentary and State business has been conducted in one form or another for more than 900 years. Have I persuaded anyone to include it on their itinerary? And no I can't explain how this is, in any way, related to the American Dream - sorry.