Thursday, June 6, 2019
American Dream by James Truslow Essay Example for Free
the Statesn Dream by James Truslow EssayThe American ambitiousness is a term coined by James Truslow in his 1932 adjudge Epic of America, besides it is a concept as old as America itself anything is possible if comp permitely the individual is willing to massage hard. The dream draws immigrants to our shores and borders each(prenominal) year and keeps millions of Americans content in the idea that their toiling will pave the way to success for them and for their children. However, for every rags-to-riches story, there are thousands of other hard-working people who cannot get by, who do not have enough to eat, transportation, safe housing, or warm clothes in winter. thither is much evidence that the American dream is little more(prenominal) than a myth, a false promise that keeps millions of people working themselves weary for a discontinue tomorrow that will never come.The American dream is the promise of the Declaration of Independence, which indicates that our inalien able rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of gaiety. There is no single American dream, scarcely Adams defines the concept in its most dignified sense It is the dream of a land in which life should be best and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for all(prenominal) according to ability or achievementa dream of a loving order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which that are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position. (qtd. In Ferenz) The sweetening of America for immigrants and the promise to its citizens is that, as Adams indicates, the individual is not held back by circumstances, but through individual efforts can pursue and attain whatever ad hominem brand of happiness he or she desires.In the midst of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt recognized the die the federal government needed to play in retentiveness the A merican dream alive-no longer was hard work the only factor involved in ensuring an acceptable standard of living. Under his administration, a number of social programs were put into place to help Americans achieve the dream, which Roosevelt described as sufficiency of life, rather thana plethora of riches and salutary health, good food, good education, good working conditions (qtd. In Muir). Owing to these principles, Roosevelts New Deal included the Social Security Act, Fair Labor Standards Act that banned child bray and established a stripped wage, and a variety of programs that put Americans to work in civil service (Successes 4-6). Roosevelts programs and serviceman War II helped span the nation out of the Great Depression, but were not permanent solutions in making the American dream possible for all Americans.By the 1960s, one in five Americans were living in mendicancy, and in his first State of the Union address in 1964, Lyndon Johnson declared, an unconditional war o n poverty in America. (qtd. In Quindlen 1) Johnson, too, understood that the American dream was one not attainable through hard work alone. As Anna Quindlen, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, notes in her 2004 editorial, from Johnsons declaration a legions of government initiatives sprang, including Head Start, an expended food-stamp program, and sweeping reforms in health care for the needy (Quindlen 2).Unfortunately, in spite of the attempts of Roosevelt, Johnson, and others to lend a hand to those Americans who need it most, the feeling that the shortsighted are responsible for their own troubles always seems to creep its way back into the American mind. Weve all heard the rumors that the shortsighted are lazy, that wel fartheste is plainly n excuse not to get a job. Quindlen comments that part of the problem with a war on poverty today is that many Americans have decided that organism poor is a character defect, not an economic condition (Quindlen 2).Public policy of the la st few decades seems to follow this line of thinking the Federal negligible wage has not risen since 1997 even as welfare reform movements have forced millions of people, many single parents, off public assistance and into borderline wage jobs. Quindlen argues that forty years after Johnson led the charge, the battle against poverty still rages. The biggest differences today if that there is no call to arms by those in power (Quindlen 1). How does this shift in American policy affect the status of the American dream? Can we still call ourselves the land of opportunity when the American dream eludes so many of our citizens? Should the American dream exist and is it really worth it to try and live by the dream?In July 2000, Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World Report, wrote an see more or less the success of the American dream. Zuckerman claims that it is a dream on individual effort-talent, ambition, risk-taking, readiness to change, and just plain hard work -qualities that count more in America than social background of luck (Zuckerman 120). That is a perspective that Zuckerman, a billionaire whose biography on the U.S. News and World Report website boasts he has substantial real-estate holdings, including properties in Boston, New York, Washington, and San Francisco can afford to have. The reality for most Americans, however, is not nearly so great. It is a reality where social background and luck play far too large a part in achieving the American dream.deuce articles written a decade apart demonstrate that bitter reality. In the States Today in 1996, Charles Whalen writes that beneath the misleading surface prosperity of the 1990s are numerous alarming trends, among them relentless downsizing, longer job searches and sluggish job creation, detonative growth in contingent work (part-time and temporary employment), and wage stagnation (Whalen 2-3). One would be hard=pressed to find a list that better demonstrates the part luck plays in securing steady employment. Whalen also cites a survey, ironically conducted for U.S. News and World Report, that indicates 57% of those asked s upkeep that the American dream is out of appreciation for most families (qtd. in Whalen 2).In 2006 in the Chicago Sun-Times, Clyde Murphy cites a new report released by the opportunity ripennda that measures the nations march on in living up to the American dream. The findings? That millions of Americans do not have a fair chance to achieve their full potential, despite their best efforts (Murphy 33). Two of the reasons cited by the study are housing discrimination against blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are employment discrimination against women and minorities, which included favoring job candidates with white-sounding names. These findings clearly refute Zuckermans claim, demonstrating that background does in fact count more in America than individual effort when it comes to achieving certain aspects of the American dream.Another du bious claim in Zuckermans essay is that anybody who wishes to work has the opportunity to move from the bottom of the ladder to a middle-class standard of life, or higher (Zuckerman 120). As award-winning journalist Barbara Ehrenreich notes in her book Nickel and Dimed On (Not) getting By in America, the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform assumed that a job was the ticket out of poverty and that the only thing holding back welfare recipients was their reluctance to get out and get one (Ehrenreich 196). As a wealth of evidence suggests, this is the innate misperception surrounding the American dream.In her 2003 editorial A New Kind of Poverty, Anna Quindlen argues America is a country that now sits atop a precarious fretwork of myth. It is the myth that working people can support their families (Quindlen 2). Quindlen interviews two women who run services for the homeless and impoverished in New York City, ant they note that more often they are seeing working families in dire need of their help. Indeed, according to the U.S. Census Bureaus 2005 report on poverty, Americas poverty rate has been climbing, from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 12.7 percent in 2004, the latest for which data is available. This translates into 37 million people who live below the poverty line. This is set ahead complicated, however, by the way that the Census Bureau calculates the poverty level. Barbara Ehrenreich explains that it is still calculated by the archaic method of taking the bare-bones cost of food for a family of a given size and multiplying that number by three.Yet food is relatively inflation-proof (Ehrenreich 200). This method results in a base calculation of $9,310 for one person, with $3,180 added for each superfluous person in the household. As anyone who has ever lived on his or her own understands, those poverty calculations are very low. Ehrenreich points out that the Economic Policy Institute recently reviewed dozens of studies of what constitutes a living wage and came up with an average figure of $30,000 for a family of one adult and two children (Ehrenreich 213). When compared to the federal poverty calculation of $15,670, the interruption becomes glaringly apparent. Anna Quindlen explains when you adjust the level to reflect reality, you come closer to 35 percent of all Americans who are having a hard time providing the basics for their families (Quindlen 2).As pioneering psychologist Abraham Maslows research reveals, psychological and safety needs-the basics referred to by Quindlen, such as food and housing-must be fulfilled before other needs, core components of the American dream such as belongingness and self-esteem, can be met (Abraham 2). This creates a basic gap betwixt those who can reach for the American dream and those who cannot if all souls energy is focused on providing food and shelter, there is nothing left to reach for higher goals. In a 2002 essay Whats So Great About America? Dinesh DSouza, an Indian immigrant, makes assertions that demonstrate some common misconceptions about Americans meeting our basic needs.The United States is a country where the ordinary bicycle guy has a good life, (DSouza 23). He even goes so far to say that very few people in America have to interrogate where their next meal is coming from (DSouza 23). Sadly, this is not true. Quindlen indicates the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that 1.6 million New Yorkerssuffer from food insecurity, which is just a fancy way of apothegm they do not have to enough to eat (Quindlen 1). Ehrenreich reports that according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 67 percent of the adults requesting emergency food aid are people with jobs (Ehrenreich 219).Two other basic needs, safe housing and health care, are also beyond the reach of many Americans. When the rich and the poor compete for housing on the open market, writes Ehrenreich, the poor dont stand a chance. The rich can always outbid them, buy up their tenement s and trailer parks, and replace them withwhatever they like (Ehrenreich 199). This is exaggerated by the fact that expenditures on public housing have fallen since the 1980s, and the expansion of public rental subsidies came to a halt in the 1990s (Ehrenreich 201). Health care is another sad story. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans with no health insurance has been belatedly rising, arriving at 15.7 percent in 2004, and as Quindlen observes, poor kids are much more presumable to become sick than their counterparts, but much less likely to have health insurance. Talk about a double whammy (Quindlen 1). How can families dream big and plan for the future as they worry about whether the next month will bring eviction or illness?Two people in particular have put a kind-hearted face on the statistical evidence that the American dream remains out of reach for millions of hard-working Americans. At the urging of her editor at Harpers magazine, Barbara Ehrenre ich undertook a yearlong undercover investigation of living on low-wage jobs in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota. She waited tables, worked as a maid, and worked at Wal-Mart, never revealing her statue as a reported, but keeping careful private diaries documenting the details of her endure.In spite of working at least full-time, usually more, she was unable to get by. The most heartbreaking part of her journey, however, was the people she met, women who were not just experimenting with the low-wage life, but who were trapped by it. They were women who were victims of the affordable housing shortage, who lived in cars, or if they were lucky, weekly rental motel rooms. They walked, rode bikes, or bummed rides to work. Certainly among those who experience food insecurity, they skipped meals or ate nutritionally void foods like hot dog buns because they couldnt afford to eat. They were women with raw hands and sore backs, fit two or more jobs who would never, in spite of their work ethic , move off that bottom rung of the social ladder.In a similar experiment, Morgan Spurlock (of extremely Size Me fame) and his fiance lived on minimum wage for thirty days in Columbus, Ohio and recorded the results for the premiere episode of his television series 30 Days. As Spurlock works eighteen-hour days making at least $7.50 per hour and Alex works for minimum wage at a coffee house, the pair is faced with a host of challenges that mirror the everyday trials of the working poor. Emergency room visits for a urinary tract infection and a sprained wrist cost them $1,217. DSouza right comments that in America, even sick people who dont have money or insurance will receive medical care at hospital emergency rooms (DSouza 23), but he fails to take into account that suck care generates bills are equivalent to six weeks of full time minimum wage work.The most affordable housing they could find, a steal at $325 per month, has ant infestations, malfunctioning heat, and is upstairs from an apartment that was a crack house just the week before. Furthermore, their relationship is strained by the stress that results from the constant worrying about money. At the end of the month they find themselves hundreds of dollars in the hole, by for good changed by their experience. When taken together, the accounts of Ehrenreich and Spurlock offer powerful insight into the everyday struggles of the working poor, those who are anything but lazy but still find themselves drowning financially, the American dream slipping further away all the time.Dinesh DSouza claims that in America your destiny is not prescribed. Your life is like a blank sheet of story and you are the artist (DSouza 24). It is difficult to believe, however, that the millions of working poor are not trying to create a better destiny for themselves, only to find their dreams let down by the harsh realities of daily life. So why is the American dream still suck a pervasive part of our consciousness, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that hard work is not the ticket to prosperity, or even necessarily to a comfortable standard of living?In his Critique of Hegels Philosophy of the Right, Karl Marx wrote that devotion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for the real happiness (qtd in Cline). Marxs clever observation is that religion, in keeping the focus on the afterlife, keeps people from entreating fair treatment in this world. DSouza suggests, however, that capitalism gives America a this-worldly focus that allows death and the afterlife to recede from everyday viewthe regard of the people is shifted to earthly progress (DSouza 25).If this the case, why is it that we are not more aware of (and enraged about) the decided lack of earthly progress of so many of our friends and neighbors? Some believe that it is because the American dream has taken the place of religion as todays opiate of the masses. So long as we all believe that there is a better life ahead, that is we only work harder, our dreams are within reach, it is easy to be lulled into satisfaction about the inequality that is so common in America today. Barbara Ehrenreich predicts that someday the working poor are bound to tire of getting so little in return for their labor and to demand to be paid what theyre worth (Ehrenreich 221). Some challenge, echoing Marx, that Ehrenreichs predication will not come true until the American dream, the illusory happiness of the people, is abolished in favor of a more realistic world view that recognizes that more than hard work, a helping hand is needed to make America truly the land of opportunity.From the survey that I took in class, 14 out of 20 people were surveyed and said that they to, disagree that the American dream should exist. They believe as well that ther e should be a more realistic view in society that allows you to get what you work for. Of the people that did agree, most were people between the ages of 18 and 21, people who have not yet, most likely gotten out into the real world to experience what type of life they can actually work for. If you too, disagree with the American dream, I ask you to go to this website http//www.thepetitionsite.com/3/the-american-dream-is-not-for-rent , sign the petition, and keep working hard at what you doWork CitedAbraham Maslows hierarchy of Needs. Shippensberg University Website. Sept. 2005 2-3. Web. 16 June 2009.Cline, Austin. Karl Marx on Religion. About.com. 5 Apr. 2006 n.pag. Web. 16 June 2009.DSouza, Dinesh. Whats So Great About America? The American Enterprise. May 2002 22-25. Print.Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America. New York Owl Books. 2002 20-38. Print.Ferenz, Kathleen. What is the American Dream? San Francisco State University Online Web Site. 31 Mar. 2005 n.pag. Web. 16 June 2009. Muir, Ed. Narrowing the Highway to the American Dream. American Teacher. Oct. 2004 25. Print.Murphy, Clyde. When Opportunity Knocks, It Skips Over Some Adresses. Chicago Sun-Times. 14 Feb. 2006 33. Web. 16 June 2009.Quindlen, Anna. A New Kind of Poverty. Newsweek. 1 Dec. 2003 1-2. Web. 16 June 2009.Quindlen, Anna. The War We Havent Won. Newsweek. 20 Sep. 2004 1-2. Web.16 June 2009.Successes and Failures of Roosevelts New Deal Programs. Bergen County Technical Schools and Special Services Web Site. 10 Mar. 2006 4-6. 16 June 2009.U.S Census Bureau. 2005 Poverty Press Release. 30 Aug. 2005 n.pag. 16 June 2009. Whalen, Charles J. The Age of Anxiety Erosion of the American Dream. USA Today. Sep. 1996 1-3. Web. 16 June 2009.Zuckerman, Mortimer. A Time to Celebrate. U.S. News and World Report. 17 Jul. 2000 120. Print.