Tag Archive for 'Martin Luther King Jr'

The American Dream

The American Dream starts with the neighborhoods …

Yesterday, while on a morning walk through Duboce Park in our neighborhood in San Francisco, we noticed the above message attributed to Harvey Milk, former Mayor of the City, on the wall of a school at the end of the park. The park itself is a microcosm of American social life where we find veterans, youngsters and their pet dogs enjoying a sunny day with plenty of open space to walk around, play and dream! I noticed with interest, the attention to detail, when I saw a water faucet specially designed for our canine friends.

We love San Francisco, where the old quaint Spanish style mansions and Mexican cuisine co-exist with the new-found prosperity of the Silicon Valley and Bay Area nearby. Wealth has multiplied many times over thanks to the IT Revolution but the City still retains its old world charm. A walk around the Alamo Park or the PanHandle over to the Golden Gate Park up to the Pacific Ocean is a great experience.

The expression -American Dream- is attributed to the famous historian James Truslow Adams who wrote in 1931 explaining the concept:

“Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstance of birth.”

Earlier in 1925 , F Scott Fitzgerald had used a variety of literary devices in the Great Gatsby to portray the essence of the American Dream. Going forward, till the second world war or till the beginning of the cold war, the American Dream represented the national ethos of the US – a set of ideals to live by, rooted in democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality.

In fact, the American Dream is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence which proclaims that “all men are created equal” with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The basic idea of the dream came about from the first experiences of the immigrants from Europe to the New World and from the concept of the shifting frontiers in the early¬†stages. Subsequently, Martin Luther King Jr based his Civil Rights Movement in the African- American quest for the American Dream.

The post world war prosperity for the US brought about an expanded meaning for the American Dream into four different attributes, namely Dream of Abundance, Democracy of Goods, Freedom of Choice and Novelty. While this itself was OK, the unintended consequences were the social divide, class wars and a quest by the political leadership to practice hegemony over the rest of the world. What followed the Cold War was an expression of this want to spread the ‘Area of Influence’ across the globe, reminding one of the 19th Century British Empire where Sun never Set.

The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Arab – Israel Conflict, the Palestinian problem, the Break Up of USSR, The Middle East problems, the Afghanistan War which also resulted in the 9/11 Disaster and the recent North Korean Nuclear Stand Off etc. are mainly attributed to the hegemony of the US in the garb of spreading democracy across the world. The UN has become a lame duck global institution mainly thanks to the Veto Power enjoyed by the US and a selected few. The old NATO and Warsaw Pact stand-off is now being replaced gradually by a new polarization against the US and its allies in the form of a possible Russia – China – Iran coalition to check mate the growing US influence in economic and political terms.

While the political establishment is concentrating on an equitable and desirable “World Order” as perceived by them and looking out for both economic and military measures to achieve them, the Millennials and the young Gen. Z [iGen] couldn’t care less for these initiatives at a huge cost to the US and they want a US which can address their concerns, looking inwards for a domestic ‘new order’.

Has the American Dream suffered in the bargain? I believe so because while the spirit is clear when one goes around the US now, there are visible cracks in the form of income disparities, jobs not easily available with unemployment at 5%, an apathy to established social norms and intolerance raising its ugly head in isolated incidents in the form of shoot outs and religious profiling. Social media bears abundant testimony to this shift in attitudes and at times gives expression to the underlying chasm affecting the American Dream.