Equality and the American Dream Essay
The American dream is one issue that every American especially political elite talks about and is included almost in every book. Even though the idea of the American Dream persuades and motivates the development and growth, it has recently become impractical and unattainable. Unfortunately, most of the Americans still strongly believe that this preposterous ambition can be achieved. Achieving the American dream undoubtedly depends on an individual’s own definition of the dream, thus, causing many varieties to choose from. John Winthrop visualized a religious paradise in a “City upon a Hill”, while Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of racial equality. Both men supported their arguments perfectly, hence making scholars to separately view the varying perception for the American dream. Attainment of this dream, however, is still in doubt (Stigliz n.pag.).
Initially, American excellence was thought as possessing property and having enough money to be able to provide for their family basic needs. In fact, most citizens wanted to get wealthy and prominent as it is these days. Currently, the American dream has changed into insatiable materialism that has made most Americans think of how to be millionaires and own a yacht and perhaps a private jet. Few Americans are millionaires compared to the entire American population. However, most Americans still believe that this dream is achievable, and that they will join the millionaires club eventually. The belief by a good number of people that it is possible to move from rags to riches is unrealistic, because the modern day wealth is almost not viable to reach (“Davos” n.pag.).
The thought of the American Dream has had a very hopeful influence on the American people, as every person believes that at least one day they will earn enough money, having freedom and riding in high social circles. Just like some other Americans are positive about the achievement of the American excellence, so there is the belief by people from other countries. Most foreigners have travelled to America to get at least a fraction of opportunity in America. However, I believe that the American dream is just a deceptive hope that will never be attained. This article explains the difficulties of achieving the dream especially among the less privileged individuals who literally start from nothing. Even when you try to save money or work extra hard, achieving excellence in the American dream is absolutely impossible (Stiglitz n. pag.).
Although Americans’ economy is growing and the wealth increases, many individuals think that it is easy to achieve excellence by achieving it through hard work and diligence. It leaves many questions still about what the American dream is. Is it possible for a housekeeper and a waitress in a diner to succeed in achieving the so called American Dream? Even if someone has a bit of head to start some business, the beginning of the individual’s activity is very difficult to obtain the American Dream. Some people may work double shifts just to earn enough money, but still their needs are not fully satisfied. Generally, what is important is the chance and where someone starts from (“Wake Up America”).
It is not justified to say that American excellence is still obtainable, yet some people rent hotels so that they can sleep and shower in them due to inability to afford homes. It is so obvious that this dream is not achievable unless I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt. In fact, hard work does not reward as it is initially thought, and, therefore, it is not the key in obtaining the American Dream. People wake up in the morning to work very hard, yet they are no better off than before, thus proving that no matter how hard an individual works the person cannot just succeed. It is clear that the American Dream is just an illusion that cannot be attained and, therefore, should not be in anyone’s future. People should not cling to the hope that will never come to pass because the track record shows that only few individuals can make it from rags to riches (“Wake Up America”).
Fairness, however, is not considered as an important issue in the society as it is regarded more as a dream than a reality in America. Although the leadership of the U.S constantly talks about equality issues, nothing so far has ever happened. The gap between the rich and the poor is still unreasonable despite the lagging rise in middle class individuals. The US still lag behind compared to other European countries. Inequality in education plays a crucial role in broadening disparity gap, yet education helps in realizing the American dream. Although most people have thought about America as a land of opportunities, nothing much is in America, and this makes the belief tragic due to the near universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. Maybe in the past, the US might qualify to be the land of opportunities more than any other country. Very few Americans born in the bottom move into the top because the economic mobility in America is lower than in most of the European countries.
Opportunities in education attainment are hindered because the child’s quality education is still dependent on the amount of income of their parents. The achievements of the American dream depend richly on income and education of the population, more than in European and Scandinavian countries. The inequality in education has been largely contributed by persistent discrimination of the Latinos and African Americans who still get less pay compared to their male counterparts. Men also get better pay compared to their female counterparts due to gender disparities in the workplace. Interestingly, someone’s level of degree or education is not regarded as important as it should be. Racism and gender biasness dominates every other vital factor. Additionally, quality and quantity of education has also contributed to the unfairness in education, thus deterring the achievement of the American dream. The existence of private institutions providing quality education has been made successful by rich individuals who have been able to take their children to lucrative schools (“Wake Up America” ).
Moreover, there are other factors that are largely contributing to the disparity in education such as ability of children from wealthy backgrounds being exposed to reading at early age. These students are not exposed to environmental factors and their rich parents can manage enriching experiences such as music lessons and summer camps. Furthermore, children from affluent families get very rich nutrition, which is fundamental in boosting their learning. It is, therefore, important to ensure such a kind of trends in education is reversed to reduce the damages it continues to bring to the unfortunate children coming from low-income families. Loans used to finance education are becoming expensive to college students. Many students cannot get good jobs because they do not have connections and social capital. The playing field for both the rich and the less privileged is unfair making it painstakingly difficult to achieve the American dream.
Lincoln considers fairness as the keystone of the American Dream and further believes that the dream is only achievable if every individual is given the same opportunity. The spirit to advocate for equal opportunity in leadership is vital in order for all citizens to succeed and benefit. He argued that economic independence and equal chance for social progress is very important as far as attainment of American excellence is concerned. Lincoln argued that greatness of the American North was significantly contributed by existence of industries that offered equal opportunity to all men to prosper. They practiced free labor, which was fundamental in the growth of every individual. However, this kind of labor is not practiced, thus reducing the chances of obtaining the American Dream (Deutsch 71-80).
Many working Americans have lost the hope in their children’s ability to succeed economically in future and believe that the American dream is slipping away. The majority of workers argue that the wages they are paid is not sufficient in coping up with the cost of living that is increasingly escalating. A good number of American employees are forced to go into debt just to cater for necessities and are even forced to work for longer than they expected before the economic challenges that is accompanied with a high economic cost of living. However, it is interesting that the workers have a very strong belief that they can achieve the American excellence if they can form unions.
It is obvious that the American working class is losing hopes in the future because they feel squeezed and battered by their employees. They feel that their well-being, strength and prosperity is not regarded as important by the employers and that they often fall behind any form of economic recovery. The working Americans defined the American Dream as the ability to make hands meet, and that they should be proud of their work as well as ensuring a better future for their children. They further argued that owning a home, having a better healthcare, safe and distinguished retirement are some of the attributes of the American Dream (Broome n. pag.).
Another big problem and hindrance of achieving the American Dream is racism. It is unfortunate that in America, an individual who is a true American citizen can still be judged by the skin color. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. campaigned and fought for, yet it is shameful that nothing much has been done. Failure to address racial inequality is a clear indication that the American Dream remains a fantasy, and, therefore, it can never be achieved. Blacks are never respected in America and are even forced to work harder than the whites. Blacks and Latinos do not enjoy their existence in the country in which their ancestors were held as slaves (Stiglitz n. pag). They are still tortured by these historical injustices, and the fact is that they must always push themselves to the limit in order to earn decent wage. The requirements and attributes of the American Dream are clearly not achievable, unless the racial issues are tackled responsibly.
Although I may want to accept the fact that the American Dream is in existence, I cannot give good reasons for supporting it, unless all the issues that are of great concern such as racial discrimination, education inequality, unfairness in wealth distribution and gender inequality are solved. Unless America can successfully manage to deal with these concerns, it should never refer to as a land of opportunities (Mills n.pag.). The people of America must be able to live freely and further empowered to create wealth that would enable them live prosperously irrespective of their gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. The leadership and the society should consider it useful to address these burning issues at the cost of every American. Individuals need to prioritize achievable and specific dreams that can help them make little steps towards their personal growth.
- Broome, Claudia. “Equality and the American Dream.” Yahoo Voices, 5 Nov. 2008, n. pag. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
- “Davos 2013: Joseph Stiglitz Attacks US ‘Inequality’.” BBC News. Business, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
- Deutsch, Kenneth L. Introduction. Lincoln’s American Dream. By Deutsch. New York: Potomac Books, 2005. Print.
- “Wake Up America … Dream Not Yet Fully Realized.” 50 Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, n. d., n. pag. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
- Mills, Nicolaus. “American Dream Is About Equality, Not Wealth.” CNN Opinion, 8 July 2011, n. pag. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
- Stiglitz, Joseph. “Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth.” The New York Times, 16 Feb. 2013, n. pag. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
- Stiglitz, Joseph. “What Land Of Opportunity? The American Dream Can Be Restored But It Will Take Some Time.” Slate, 10 June 2012, n. pag. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.