When I watch/read about the carnival of idiocy that is the Republican candidates for the Presidency, it usually begins with laughter and ends in a fit of rage that can only be tamed by a strong scotch. I disagree with virtually everything they stand for and can only giggle at their lunacy for a short while before I realize that their conservative viewpoints could realistically become reality.
When truly pushes me over the edge, however, is the notion that everyone can achieve their dreams if they put their mind to it. The belief that Americans are special people, that arrogant take that we alone can overcome any adversity, independent of intellectual/psychological/environmental make-up, is simply deplorable to me. This myopic patriotism is a hallmark disguise of politicians who seek office. They want you to believe that American isn’t truly broken, that a “return to traditional American values,” following the Bible and adhering to even the most outdated parts of the Constitution will allow all to have a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.
Given such hatred on my end, I jumped at the chance to partake in a roundtable discussion about the American Dream; specifically, is this a dead concept? Take a look at my diatribe (hint: yes, it’s dead, if it ever existed at all).
All you have to do is open a newspaper or click on CNN.com to see a colossal amount of misery in both this country and the world. So you either put down the paper, or say “thank God that’s not me,” or even feel empathy for a few moments for the suffering of others. But then you move on. You could think about your impending death all day long, but that wouldn’t necessarily serve you well. So you drop it and go about your day. You almost have to think of Manifest Destiny as a realized dream, lest you feel shame at being an American.
But the current level of arrogance and blind patriotism, the kind that Palin and Limbaugh prey upon, is what makes the American Dream so silly. It allows you to sleep at night, but only because you can mentally wave an American flag and say that we don’t keep our citizens behind fences with machine guns. But we all know there’s homelessness, poverty, mental illness, physical disease, racism, homophobia and plenty of other ills that will make a so-called level playing field very, very hard for a lot of people. That’s not fairness, that’s a misguided belief that people can overcome any obstacle. It’s also not true. Some do it and they end up writing a memoir or go on Oprah or have a movie made about them, but that’s a fraction of a percentage of those who have the deck stacked against them. The vast majority start with nothing and end with nothing. The resources, both internal and external, are simply not there.
Example: a kid born in the slums of Toledo (where I did my graduate studies, so know I’m not making this up), has an I.Q. of 72. His parents are addicts and he ends up in a group home after the state sees his parents as unfit. Now some asshole in middle class America is going to say, “rise above your biology and environment, boy. Work hard and you can achieve anything. That’s the American way!”
Is that so? What the fuck is a kid with an I.Q. of 72 going to do without a colossal amount of help? Where would he even start, by getting straight A’s and a scholarship to college? In fact, if he even knew where to start or could seek out appropriate help, his I.Q. wouldn’t be 72 now, would it?
You can claim that this kid is an outlier, that America isn’t really like that, but you’d be either wrong or lying. That shit is everywhere and these people have almost no chance. Virtually none. The ones who escape that life generally have a phenomenal amount of luck, incredibly high God-given intelligence, or both. They are not the norm. So you can’t ever say to these kids coming out of the womb, with every possible negative box checked, “break out your Constitution, son! This is the land of opportunity.”