Thursday, February 05, 2004

The American Dream


The first time I heard the words “American Dream” was from a co-worker, a few months after I came to America. It was evening. We were coming back from a day of hard work, and he was giving me a ride back home. After a brief dialogue about the work and the hardship of daily life he asked me “So,... what is YOUR American dream?”
I didn’t understand what he meant. “American” dream? What did that mean? I could have understood if he has asked me “what is your dream for the future” or “Do you see any future for yourself in America?” Instead he asked me about “MY American Dream.” I asked him what he meant by “American Dream.” He looked strangely at me and changed his question to something like “What are you gonna do here.”
It is amazing how certain ideas are so accepted as axioms for many Americans. Why should a nation so self-righteously believe in its own existence as a realization of a dream? Maybe the question here is not a “why” but a “how.” How is it possible that a mediocre lifestyle imagines itself as the realization of excellence? What gives a nation so much confidence to export its American Way of Life™ to anywhere it decides? To some extent it reminds me of Iran under Khomeini in its early days, when the extremists wanted to export their revolutionary Islam to the rest of the world and save them from their demonic life.
* * *
America is an incomprehensible place. It is a place that is designed for actively forgetting about every thing real in life. It is a republic of grocery stores and gas stations. A nation that is obsessed with celebrities’ personal lives and “saving” on shopping. A place whose “democracy” is simplified to choosing between two parties which are basically the same, and its “Love for the Country” is reduced to a certain definition dictated by the government.
To the sleeping nation of the United States this life certainly is a dream, an American Dream.
Parade - Hoboken, New Jersey
By Robert Frank, From the book "The Americans".