What "American Dream"?Barack Obama's presidential campaign seems to be going with "The American Dream" mythology. A couple of weeks ago, a glossy flyer from his campaign featured a graphic with the phrase, "Reclaiming the American Dream." And yesterday arrived a letter (signed by Senator Obama and addressed to me "personally") asking for a contribution, implicitly to help him and others "reclaim the American Dream." Just what dream isn't spelled out.
The letter refers to dreams "of some factory workers," "of a woman who works the night shift after a full day of college," "of a young woman who was tricked into buying a home she couldn't afford," and "of a mother who gave Barack a bracelet inscribed with the name of her son." I guess people are expected to fill in the blanks and imagine whatever dream they want.
A book reviewed in today's New York Times Book Review has the subtitle, "How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream." What dreams will its readers fill in the blanks with? The dream that by believing hard enough you can get whatever you want ("God willing"), even a born-again Christian in the White House? The dream that America can keep all of the Mexicans out? The dream that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals will just shut up and go back into their closets? The dream that everyone will watch Fox News and agree that the government is right about everything?
Some flip-side dreams: In America, you can be free of religious oppression. In America, if you can get across the border and establish yourself, you can make a new life. In America, you and your partner will receive equal treatment, whatever the gender of your partner. In America, can should be able to have free, objective, informed discussion.
The Wikipedia's American Dream entry mentions getting stuff (material, position, power, leisure, whatever your goals area) by dint of hard work, but it's obvious that hard work is not the first thing that comes to the mind of many an American dreamer. The blue collar worker who votes Republican seems to dream of making it someday and becoming one of George W. Bush's "have mores," forgetting that Bush had connections and was a legacy admit at Yale. Under the right circumstances hard work isn't necessary, as the career of Bush himself illustrates.
Many a reader of People Magazine seems to dream of attaining the lifestyle of Brad and Angelina (if you just follow their careers closely enough and read all of those glossy magazines at the supermarket checkout).
Many still seem to dream that Americans old enough to vote will inform themselves and vote intelligently, even though we know that millions of Americans don't vote, and millions more vote the way their pastor or Fox or someone else with a special interest tells them to. As George Carlin said, "It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."
"The American Dream" has become such a hackneyed phrase, I'm surprised that Obama and advertisers and the authors of books are still trying to exploit it. Maybe they know something about the American public that I continue to dream isn't so.
In America, there seems to be a dream for everyone. In America, you can dream on.