The Death of The American Dream?*

The Death of The American Dream?

Is it over? Has the Dream that made America great succumbed to the ravages of time … the effects of bad government … the consequences of wrong-headed policy-making? Has the American Dream somehow become the American Nightmare?

Or is the American Dream still the guiding light not only for Americans, but for other nations and their peoples, the beacon of freedom and stability described by Ronald Reagan in his farewell speech?

What makes America great? What makes it … America? What Dreams do should Americans … and those who look to America as an inspiration … hold? Is it the America exalted by Emma Lazarus – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me….”? Or is it the racially, religiously and morally pure America promoted, for example, by Tucker Carlson, Franklin Graham and Patrick Buchanan who believe that America has been led terribly astray by following Lazarus’ directive and that radical change is necessary to restore American homogeneity – the American Dream as they see it – and save it from the dark forces unleashed by unwalled borders. The policies described in Lazarus’ verse do not merely threaten America, they believe: diversity and the belief in a heterogeneous America have led to a crisis in which core American values are rapidly being eroded destroyed.

For Carlson, the American Dream is dying because America is living through a “dark age” brought about by a flood of immigrants who have “plundered” the wealth and well-being of the country because of the pandering of “decadent and narcissistic” politicians who refuse to “defend the nation.” His racially-apocalyptic views are shared by fellow conservative commentator Ann Coulter who, in her book, Adios America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole, echoes the views of white nationalists and anti-Muslim activists that “the [forthcoming non-white] majority [of American voters] will not be [the] compassionate overlords [that] the white majority has been. If this sort of drastic change were legally imposed on any group other than white Americans, it would be called genocide.” (Genocide? It was only 100 years ago that Italians, referred to as “Mediterranean types,” were grouped with other “racially inferior” immigrants. Journalists in 1891 wrote that “If immigration was properly restricted, [America] would never be troubled with anarchism, socialism, the [Italian] Mafia and such kindred evils.”)

Both believe in bringing change to America by returning America to its Anglo-Saxon origins heritage.

The need for change is echoed by evangelists such as Franklin Graham who share the view that “[America] is in deep trouble and on the verge of total moral and spiritual collapse.” “Total collapse? Really? “Never before,” says Graham, “have I seen such a sharp rift in the moral and spiritual fabric of our country. The Cross of Christ has become the deep divide between a growing segment of our population that no longer fears God and those who follow Christ as Lord and Savior.”

All three subscribe to views that have long been voiced by Pat Buchanan, America’s most recent Cassandra. His books, including Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization, advocate closing America’s borders, withdrawing from the United Nations, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, repealing taxes on inheritance and capital gains, and abandoning affirmative action. A Holocaust denier, Buchanan’s radical definition of the American Dream resonates with a broad spectrum of disaffected Americans … including Carlson and Coulter. While the American Dream was once glorified by Ronald Reagan as the embodiment of freedom – “every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should become” – exalting America as an inspiration to other peoples and other nations, Buchanan has recast that vision as a calamity that has misled the country to a “multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual ÔÇÿuniversal nation’ whose avatar is Barack Obama.” He thunders that America is a country in decline because Americans have succumbed to “a sexual revolution of easy divorce, rampant promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, assisted suicide – the displacement of Christian values with Hollywood values.”

Buchanan’s voice is a dark one, an angry, evangelical cry for extreme change.

Is he right? Has America truly lost its way? Are Carlson, Coulter and Graham similarly right? Has the American Dream of Emma Lazarus created a Nightmare for America? Is the country in dire condition? Has it slid into a “dark age” of “moral and spiritual collapse”? Is the American Dream therefore doomed? Are these tumultuous times therefore a prelude to radical change?

Not quite. The Carlson/Coulter/Graham/Buchanan vision of a Dream-turned-Nightmare is a mirage, a philosophical, political and media illusion. Despite their gloomy perspectives and raging rhetoric, America and the American Dream are not merely surviving, they’re flourishing.

Buchanan’s hellish view of the American Dream is not the one found in dictionaries … or embraced by the majority of Americans. Dictionaries, in characterizing the American Dream as the national ethos of the United States, define it as “including the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for family and children achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. It is rooted in the Declaration of Independence’s proclamation that ÔÇÿall men’ have the right to ÔÇÿlife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’” Racial, religious and political purity are not mentioned. What makes America strong, and what has made America the greatest nation on Earth, is the right of every American to freely pursue life, liberty and happiness – what some refer to as its frontier philosophy. When conflicts have challenged the American Dream – whether during the Civil War or the Great Depression or WWII or the Cold War or the racial and religious conundrums of the 21st Century – Americans have rallied around that philosophy. That is America’s “centre.” Challenges have served to reinforce, and not undercut, that Dream. America is a society with few barriers, the opportunity of children to achieve more than their parents, a free press without fear of censorship or repression, the freedom to worship many or no religions, and a magnet for others who cherish that freedom and those values – Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill,” both the embodiment and exemplar of freedom’s success.

The radical-right warnings appeals-to-action by the Buchanans, Carlsons and Coulters, much like those of the Michael Moores, AOCs and Bernie Sanderses on the radical left, are giving voice to the frustrations of their audiences. Extremists on both sides of the political circus spectrum naturally are using their public platforms to advocate what they believe to be revolutionary popular views – doing otherwise wouldn’t be sufficiently attractive to their supporters/constituencies/networks.

We live in a time of almost perpetual technological and political disruption, one similar to another historical period described by William Butler Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world; The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Today, the worst indeed are full of passionate intensity!

Yeats wrote 100 years ago in the aftermath of WWI, a similar period of disruption. What Dickens wrote about the French Revolution likewise is true today: These too are the best of times … and the worst of times. Although history doesn’t repeat itself …, it sure as hell appears to be rhyming!

America’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the last 240 years. Its economic, geopolitical and social rise was not vertical and not without periodic mishaps and missteps noticed today, if at all, only by students of history. America did not flourish without significant bumps. Those bumps come and go. It has had its economic booms and busts, political conflicts that led to blows on the floor of Congress and periods of political consensus, as well as name-callings that make today’s media seem tame. History teaches that the center cannot hold in all ways and at all times, that demagogues “full of passionate intensity” come and go, and that “the best of times” often co-exist with “the worst of times” …, and yet the balance of the center inevitably returns. The cycles of history will persist.

America has its share of problems, none of which is insurmountable and none of which requires the radical solutions pressed by extremists. From a social and economic perspective, it’s unhealthy to ascribe America’s social and workplace problems to an immigrant invasion of people who look, speak and act differently from resident Americans whose forebears looked, spoke and acted differently from then-resident Americans, and doing so also will not further the American Dream. It’s also unhealthy for the top 0.1{29ea29b64b10057f61377b2c087cd5b7537a0cd24da4295a308b0bf589469f35} of Americans to own as many assets as the bottom 90{29ea29b64b10057f61377b2c087cd5b7537a0cd24da4295a308b0bf589469f35} or for the top 1{29ea29b64b10057f61377b2c087cd5b7537a0cd24da4295a308b0bf589469f35} of income earners to earn more than the bottom 50{29ea29b64b10057f61377b2c087cd5b7537a0cd24da4295a308b0bf589469f35}, and anti-capitalist solutions similarly will not further the American Dream.

We live in interesting times …, but these times are not new. They are part of a recurring cycle. The American Dream is very much alive … and it will continue to thrive in spite of the extremists.

Finally (from a good friend)

*┬® Copyright 2020 by William Natbony. All rights reserved.

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