Wounded by the Jagged Edges of a Shattered American Dream
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American ideologies of success, rooted in ideals represented by the American Dream, have long captivated people of the United States with a hypnotic power. The promise of the American Dream, in which even the poorest Americans can achieve prosperity and success through persistence and hard work, has drawn all sorts of people to its warmth, generating a multicultural “melting pot” in the U.S. that boasts of diversity and tolerance. The American Dream itself resonates from the nation’s declaration that “all men are created equal” and affirms its claim to be a land of inclusion and nondiscriminatory opportunity. Further evidenced by glorified narratives of rags-to-riches success, the American Dream has flourished in the hearts of many Americans who embrace its emotional appeal, and over time, it has been woven into the social fabric of the United States national imaginary with unwavering patriotism. Its ideals, which reside at the core of American identity, have undoubtedly played an important role in guiding American political evolution and development. Yet while the American Dream is flaunted as a source of national cohesion and pride, for many it is no more than an empty and elusive fantasy hovering over a broken land. Instead of finding refuge in the American Dream’s sacred promises, many Americans have begun to contest its presence in the national imaginary as a divisive and unjust force.
Although the term “American Dream” was not coined until 1931, the Dream’s ideals have served as a cultural compass since the founding of the United States (Library of Congress). Disenchantment with the idea of economic mobility began to slowly surface as the United States progressed through the Industrial Age, as many Americans struggled to k...
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...rican Dream has created a highly polarized country that stigmatizes dependency and contributes to the cycle of poverty. The Dream’s innocence justifies and avoids confrontation of issues that many believe are responsible for excluding certain individuals from the Dream, for instance, class inequality, racism, educational imbalance, and gender discrimination. Analyzing the paradox between the elements of the American Dream and the reality of the current political economy brings into question the validity of the American Dream. Does it still hold true, or did it ever? The emerging consensus suggests that the Dream is indeed a double-edged sword, intending to sharpen America’s progress but inadvertently wounding those who cannot afford to attain the its success.
Rich, Adrienne. An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems, 1988-1991. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991