The American Dream? There are many who would say that particular train ran out of steam years ago. America might have once supplied the world’s dreams and its fantasies but not anymore. For ordinary Americans, the American Dream is giving them all nightmares; from the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam, appalling gun crime, racial inequality and Obama to the current Presidential Campaign that reveals just how far American politics has sunk into the gutter.
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness is mentioned in the American Declaration of Independence and it doesn’t come more banal or intangible than that. Of course, who could disagree with the aspiration? Martin Luther King was only saying more than fifty years ago that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, was the inalienable right of all Americans regardless of the colour of their skin. But ever since the fateful day of his tragic assassination, the poor man must have been turning in his grave more times than a pig on spit, because a very large proportion of the American public are still fighting for those rights now. The pursuit of life is all fine and dandy if you have Obamacare. Liberty is supposedly for all except if you’re black and have just been asked to pull over by a white police officer. And as for the pursuit of happiness? Well, take a trip around the poorest reaches of America and see that happiness for yourself.
Through the eternal pursuit of material prosperity the American Dream merely translates into working more hours to get bigger cars, bigger homes, and a fatter bank balance, but all the while having less time to enjoy one’s improved prosperity. I’m not an American of course but, from where I’m sitting, if this is the case then the American Dream remains far beyond the grasp of the ordinary working poor, millions of whom have no choice but to work two jobs just to ensure their family’s survival. And it’s easy to wax lyrical about the American Dream as being one with far less focus on financial gain and much more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life if you’re a rich politician, a company CEO or a lottery winner.
Dreams are little more than silly things spoken about only by those looking for votes. Therefore, unless you live in a hole somewhere in the Grand Canyon, you wouldn’t have failed to notice how the good old American Dream has begun to raise its head like a bald eagle the closer America gets to November 8th. Indeed, the only people talking about the American dream are politicians. The rest of the voting public are either working their arses off, dealing with ever shrinking paychecks or struggling to keep on top of their mortgage. And yet, apart from Russia and North Korea, where such things are compulsory on pain of death, no other country in the free world can match America’s shameless nationalism, which is a one-way street if ever there was one when you consider the levels of poverty, unemployment, racial violence and inequality.
In no other free country would a man like Trump ever be deemed fit to run for the highest political office, and Hilary Clinton too would do well to make the race. But for all of his crudeness and his train wreck of a presidential campaign, doesn’t Trump remain the very embodiment of the American Dream? A businessman who has made enough bad financial decisions, a serial bankrupt who bounced back. A man with vision and drive, working hard day in and day out in the cut throat world of business and, by and large, succeeding. Whereas Clinton has made no secret of her lust for power, and, with her husband, has made a nice little multi-million pound fortune from a life in……. public service! Who says that altruism isn’t a money spinner?
But here’s the thing. Trump and Clinton are precisely what the American Dream delivers. They are that dream writ large reflecting back at the American people as what you get when the pursuit of power and wealth replaces the values of caring for your neighbour, a sense of community and family and a diminution in civic responsibility. If the Donald wins then prepare yourself for the Trumpification of western politics. While Clinton could find herself in the White House while simultaneously under FBI investigation! Perhaps if the country’s rulers are really serious about the American Dream then perhaps they should listen to the dreams of the American voters? Alas, in a country founded on hope, there’s not a lot of it about.
30th October 2016