The American Dream

I’ve been trying to figure out why and how current trends toward empowering bigots came from, and watching the steps as this administration . As an historian, I see that there is no turn-around where the American Dream failed. What we are going through is the cumulative effect of many influences from the Columbian Exchange onward.
The fairy tale of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” we believed as kids was never “reality” it was always “the Dream”, the American Dream (financial security and social justice), what we hoped we could make happen. I think those goals of equality and freedom are still worth attempting, even if the past doesn’t consist of the stories our parents told us as kids.
Those stories of pilgrims, and cowboys, inventors, and pioneers, and entrepreneurs are are myths, and a myth is a story that is not factual, but has a core of truth that explains our culture to ourselves. Yes, the people of America have always been bigotted, mysogenistic, and have chosen to fight for the best for our families, or our groups. This means we required stories that told our children that we did the awful things we did for them, and tried to justify them, while, sadly, putting on them the burden of making them a part of those wrongs. We were trying to build a new Rome, it needed slaves; we were trying to fined a place to build our own little farm, we were told and believed that the Indians were dangerous and we were protecting ourselves; we believe that the only way to save souls is to force anyone who doesn’t to worship as we do. The justification is that if the information on which the actions were based was wrong, it was sincerely believed. No one wants their children to judge them and decide that they were the “bad guys”.
There have always been those who wanted Liberty for all- except the Jews, the “coloreds”, women, the Catholics, the Injuns, the Micks and Wops and Chinks and everyone else that’s not “us”. We need them to work for us in order to create and maintain our intended status quo, …but they don’t need freedom, they aren’t smart enough, they’d abuse it (by which they mean abuse us, by which they mean treat usas we did them). This country was founded by people who didn’t want to raise their children with their neighbors in case tolerance might develop, those and the ones who thought they could get free land that the indigenous people “weren’t using anyway”.
I think we can be a bit more honest with our kids, yet still tell them stories of an Ideal America where people are all free and equal. We certainly can’t make it happen if we don’t imagine what it would be like.
We do have to soothe the fears of those who worry about what giving others the same rights as themselves will mean. The older I get, the more wisdom I see in the Truth and Reconciliation movement in South Africa. No, you aren’t forgiving the wrongs done, we need to acknowledge them, put them in the past, and move forward to something better.
We are like a child who was raised in an abusive home. Yes, it’s too easy for them to perpetuate those patterns, but not all do. We can hope to rise above the fear and the hate that it creates, and show that it doesn’t have to be that way. The only way to soothe the fear that women, or blacks or Native Americans will ‘get back at’ those who have abused their power in the past is to establish and enforce equal rights for all, and have those who have been pushed down show them that they have nothing to fear from equality.
There will be some people who will try to use physical strength, money, and other power to get more than others, but that’s what laws are for. We teach it to children all the time. “No Billy, we don’t hit. You have to take your turn. Everyone has the same size piece.” We can get it. Not everyone, and we’ll need to create outlets for those who are more competitive, but I think it can be done.